Join the Club: 6 Reasons to Check out the Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch
Polo, known as The Sport of Kings, dates back to 600 B.C. Persia. Modern polo involves polo clubs. The first US club formed in 1876. Today, there are over 275 clubs across the country. Modern polo is no longer reserved for royalty and aristocrats. In Sarasota, polo is a family affair. Matches are open to the public, and The Polo Club events continue to grow in popularity. This article lists just six reasons to visit the Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota.
Sarasota Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch History
The Sarasota Polo Club has a rich history. In 1991, it was the first development in Lakewood Ranch. Though, the history of polo on the land goes back to the 1920s.
In 1922, the founders of Schlitz Brewing Company (the Uihlein family), purchased a timber ranch in Sarasota.
The ranch hands played “knock-around” polo in their off hours, making up their own rules. When Robin Uihlein caught wind of this, he donated equipment and horses, creating a formal polo club.
These days, the Sarasota Polo Club is 130 gorgeous acres. It includes 45 equestrian estates, a half-mile horse track, seven Bermuda grass fields, and boarding facilities. It also boasts an inviting Polo Pavilion and Player’s Clubhouse.
Since 1991, the Sarasota Polo Club has grown into a first-class polo community. It has a reputation for fast-playing fields, family fun, and fairness. Members come back year after year because of this.
Most importantly, the club environment emphasizes sportsmanship, ensuring that the Club will continue to grow and gain popularity. In 2018, James and Misdee Miller purchased the Polo Club.
Through the season, which runs from December through April, polo matches are every Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Though, the gates open to spectators at 10:00 to give them time to set up and get ready to enjoy the match.
Guests often arrive as early as 9:15 am to scout out the best spot on the field. Adult tickets are only $12 and children 12 and under are free.
Seating is limited, so you will want to bring your own chair. The 2019 season runs from December 2nd -April 28th. To see the Sarasota polo schedule, check the Sarasota Polo Club website for the calendar of events.
1. Food and Drink
Food and beverages are available. The Clubhouse bar is open to the public during matches. Enjoy a cold beer or specialty drink on the Polo patio.
The infamous Freddy’s Steakburgers will have their food truck running at the Polo Patio as well with a full menu to choose from.
2. Polo Tailgate
If you prefer tailgating, all the better. Families bring picnic lunches and get ready for a great day of fresh air and polo sport. Be sure to arrive early enough to set up your tailgate picnic.
You’ll have time to visit the players’ trailers and admire the ponies. You’ll also get to see a lot of the fun pre-game preparations. Grooms are adjusting tack. Others are laying out mallets.
Often, there is a tailgate theme set for specific dates. If you are attending one of those dates, arriving early is best. You are not allowed to save spaces or park and leave your car, truck, or land rover.
So plan ahead for your spot and enjoy the day. Tents are allowed next to your vehicles, by the way.
In fact, if you are planning to attend as part of a large group, you can call ahead and rent one or more tents to accommodate all of you.
3. Bring the Dog
The Polo Club at Lakewood is dog-friendly. Bring your best four-legged friend along with you for the day. Your dog will get a kick out of watching the horses.
If you look around, you’ll see plenty of dogs on the sidelines watching the horses and players in action. Just be sure to keep your canine family member on a leash.
4. Halftime Activities
The Sarasota Polo Club provides halftime activities and other entertainment throughout the season. In polo, half-time starts after the third chukker. It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know the other spectators.
Clydesdale Wagon Rides
One popular event is the Clydesdale wagon ride. Kids especially enjoy climbing on board the wagon and touring the grounds behind the magnificent Clydesdales.
Stomping the Divots
Half-time, all spectator are invited on the field for the time-old tradition of “divot stomping.” During a match, the polo ponies’ tear up small patches of dirt and grass as they play.
All the quick starts and turns create divots on the field, which are dangerous for the horses. So, fans enter the playing field to help out.
In what other sport can you walk onto the playing field during half time? It’s fun, a chance for some exercise. We aren’t sure who enjoys it more, the children or the adults.
5. Watching the Game
It almost goes without saying that the polo match itself is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. The game is fast-paced and a beautiful all-around display of sportsmanship.
If you’ve never experienced a polo match before, here are some things to expect.
The polo field at Lakewood is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. Spectators line every inch of this gorgeous green field.
If you’re watching close to the sidelines, keep a safe distance from the sideboards, no closer than 10 yards from the edge of the field. Players and their ponies play the entire field, and sometimes knock a ball over the sideboards.
For a better perspective on the game, bring along a good pair of binoculars. It’s a lot of fun to watch the players warm up before the match.
You can also get a sharper look at the players’ individual riding styles. Binoculars help catch the subtler nuances of the sport.
6. Polo Match Trophy Presentation
The polo community considers everyone part of the family. After the match ends, enjoy the trophy presentation. Everyone comes together on the field, players, sponsors, and spectators alike.
The ceremony is called a sabrage, or “Sabre a Champagne.” Sabrage involves opening a champagne bottle with a saber. The tradition began in France during the Napoleonic wars.
At the end of Saratoga Polo tournaments, the sabrage involves Veuve Clicquot champagne, who is a major club sponsor.
The trophy presentation ceremony is an experience in true sportsmanship. You can also get some great photo opportunities and even autographs. You can mingle with players and experience genuine camaraderie.
The Sport of Kings Awaits in Sarasota
Even if you don’t know how to play polo, you’re sure to enjoy the comradery and sportsmanship at the Polo Club at Lakewood Ranch. Come on out this season and see it for yourself!
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