Nov 29, 2016 5:43 PM
A mere few minutes from downtown Houston, Texas, you will find the Houston Polo Club (HPC) located on 26 manicured acres. Established in 1928, HPC has been providing the Southwestern Circuit with not only world-class polo, but the opportunity to learn and progress as an individual player.
The club has proven to be a mainstay in American polo since its inception and has hosted and produced its fair share of notable professional players over nearly a century. Originally called the Houston Polo and Riding Club (HPRC), it was established on a small farm in the heart of the city. Founding members included many of Houston’s wealthy business owners and socialites such as the prominent Farish family. Polo in the area prospered in the late 20s and 30s and the Farish family eventually separated and opened up their own riding facilities on their private farm. In 1938, the Farishes moved their polo operation to the present location of the Houston Polo Club at the Bayou Club, located in the heart of Houston.
The Great Depression took its toll on the original Houston Polo and Riding Club which forced the owners to sell the small property where it resided. The Farish family along with the Bayou Club allowed HPRC to play on their fields, keeping polo alive in the Houston area. Although times were tough financially for the club, Houston players continued to represent nationally, with 10-goal Hall of Famer Cecil Smith making his mark on the world of polo. Even though there was much love and support for the club, times were too tough to stay afloat. The Houston Polo and Riding Club was shut down for a number of years, reemerging in the 1960s with support from the local community as the Houston Polo Club.
HPC is one of Texas’ oldest clubs, comprised of the Bayou Club’s original fields and stables, as well as a tack shop, stick and ball field, hitting cage and covered arena. In addition, HPC has three fields in Brookshire, Texas, and access to over 18 other fields through private ranches. Polo is played almost year-round with the club offering a fall and spring season, followed by summer leagues, winter arena and interscholastic polo. The fall season, which Assistant Polo Manager KC Krueger admits is her favorite, is the most competitive. During the fall, HPC hosts numerous tournaments including the USPA Keleen and Carlton Beal Cup, USPA Regional President’s Cup, the USPA H. Ben Taub Memorial and a week of women’s tournaments that culminates with the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® - the highest level of women’s polo played in the world.
Boasting 160 registered members, HPC has much to offer players of all levels. Houston’s league structure is considered to be one of the best in the country, and can accommodate any skill level. The polo school is run by 3-goaler and USPA Certified Polo Instructor Mark Prinsloo. Originally from South Africa, Prinsloo has played polo for over 20 years and was brought to the United States during his career as a 4-goal professional. Prinsloo is supported by a great staff of fellow instructors including USPA Certified Polo Instructor Barlee Flanders, Megan Flynn and Paige Flanders.
The Houston Polo School offers an eight-week instructional course in both the spring and fall seasons that strives to nurture players as they develop their skills. The school teaches students everything they need to know about playing in a game through horsemanship, strategy, proper swing instruction, hitting cage practice, classroom discussion and foot mallet exercises.
Upon graduation from the polo school, players join the Margarita League. Meeting twice a week during season, participants can expect to play with an instructor who offers coaching and assistance on their team. The next level in the nationally recognized Step Up Program is the 2-Goal League. In this competitive low-goal polo participants play with professionals on each team with the aim to increase their level of play. The 2-Goal League competes throughout the spring and fall seasons in bi-monthly tournaments.
Players then progress to the Club League, an intermediate level in which players hire their own polo professional. This prepares them for faster and more competitive polo by participating in four-chukker games and tournaments twice a week. Teams switch players for each tournament, which allows players to experience the dynamics of different teams and become familiar with the concepts of trailering to different fields, buying horses and hiring a professional. Following the Club League, players can choose to participate in 4-, 8- and 12-goal polo. Once graduated from the Club League, players have opportunities to participate in USPA sanctioned and national tournaments, as well as many tournaments held by the club. Executive Director Pam Mudra has done an amazing job of organizing the many different levels, and with proper introduction to the sport, amazing teaching and organization, HPC produces players with a solid foundation and understanding of the sport.
Similarly, HPC has a wonderful junior polo program which focuses on teaching youth players, providing opportunities to participate in clinics, tournaments and compete on interscholastic teams. The club offers A and B level junior teams as well as girls and boys interscholastic teams. Laura, mother of Houston interscholastic player Megan Rahlfs, stated in the 2016 Houston Polo Magazine, “Houston Polo Club is a great place for beginners- newcomers, and young players, because as they progress, the facilities and the structure are in place for the players as they move up.” Most recently, Houston Polo Club hosted a USPA middle school tournament for its junior players and hosts an annual National Youth Tournament Series Qualifier. From lead line to walk-trot, intermediate and advanced—Houston keeps the sport of polo alive for the younger generation.
One of the most distinctive factors about the Houston Polo Club is their variety of women players and dedication to women’s tournaments. At the end of their fall season, Houston Polo Club devotes an entire week to women’s polo called “Ladies Week.” During this time, women from all over the world participate in the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship®, the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap and two lower level tournaments - the Farish Cup and the Bayou Cup. Anywhere from 60 to 80 women participate in the women’s polo tournaments. HPC’s dedication to providing high-goal opportunities for women has certainly set them apart as they continue to elevate the level of play for women in the sport.
The variety of polo offered gives HPC a unique appeal to sponsors and spectators alike. For 2016, the club has partnered with Land Rover, Engel and Volkers, Jaguar, Veuve Clicquot, Lockton and St. Regis just to name a few. This partnership allows Houston to promote their sport and gives the games mass appeal for spectators. The Houston Polo Club hosts games for spectators each Sunday during their spring and fall seasons on the historic Farish field. According to the HPC website, “Corporate Parties, Milestones, Fundraisers, we can accommodate your Event! Sunday Polo at the Houston Polo Club is a terrific way to entertain. Your guests will be treated to a world-class polo match in a unique outdoor setting. From private tents and Umbrella tables to box seating in the Member Grandstand, your guests will have a terrific view of the Sunday Polo match.”
Houston Polo Club’s dedication to preserving and maintaining the sport of polo is evident in the diversity of programs they offer. With a vast range of playing levels within their membership, leagues and tournaments, it is easy to understand why Houston Polo Club is considered one of the premier clubs to learn the sport of polo in the nation. Devoted to promoting the sport, educating new and experienced players about the rules as well as their equine teammates, and creating a cultural attraction for the community, the club continues to grow and develop year after year. For more information on the Houston Polo Club, visit houstonpoloclub.com, follow them on Instagram and “Like” them on Facebook for up-to-date schedules of tournaments and events.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More