Oct 11, 2016 5:51 PM

New Bridge Polo & Country Club Logo

Driving into the New Bridge Polo & Country Club (New Bridge) in Aiken, South Carolina, one may think they had just entered an Argentine estancia. With its signature four-board black fencing and orange clay dirt roads--it’s no accident that the New Bridge Polo Club alludes to the current mecca of polo. Founded by amateur polo player Russ McCall in 2000, the club was created in partnership with Argentine professional Matias Magrini. “In Argentina communities build houses around the polo field—they barbecue in the backyard and watch the game,” said McCall. It was with this vision in mind that McCall created New Bridge, a casual yet luxurious horse-oriented oasis situated in the rolling hills only a short drive from charismatic downtown Aiken.

New Bridge Polo & Country Club
Photo Credit: Schmidt Productions

Like many, McCall began his polo career later in life, age 52 to be exact. A Long Island native, his business was based out of Atlanta, Georgia, for many years. McCall credits the widely-known Jack Cashin of Chukkar Farm in Alpharetta, Georgia, with his initial introduction to the sport. It wasn’t long however, before he outgrew his Atlanta polo roots to seek higher-goal polo at the nearby and historic Aiken Polo Club in Aiken, South Carolina. After landing in Aiken, McCall began growing his polo operation, acquiring horses and contracting professionals to play with him not only in South Carolina but also in Florida.

New Bridge Polo & Country Club Daymar Rosser SD Farms Amista Polo Lucas Arellano
12-goal action at the New Bridge Polo & Country Club. Daymar Rosser of SD Farms and Amista Polo's Lucas Arellano battling for possession. Photo Credit: Katie Roth

It was this surge in his polo outfit that triggered McCall and Magrini to search for turnout pasture for a growing string of ponies. The land they settled on for this simple purpose would become one of the most prominent clubs on the East Coast in only a few short years.

The astounding 861-acre New Bridge development boasts five world-class polo fields in a private gated community. While that may sound intimidating, McCall points out that the gates serve less as a barrier to keep people out, but rather more as a means to keep the occasional escaped horse in. The atmosphere of the club remains true to its humble beginnings, unpretentious, in a natural wooded setting, framed by southern pines and surrounded by an effortless tranquility.

New Bridge Polo & Country Club Clubhouse
Beautiful evening asado at the New Bridge Clubhouse. Photo Credit: Schmidt Productions

The centerpiece of the club is the rustic colonial-style clubhouse. Constructed of old wood that was shipped from Argentina and assembled onsite, it brings the history and ambiance of the Argentine way of life to South Carolina. The clubhouse also conveniently houses a players' bar, restaurant and outdoor asado area for post-game parties. Spectators are invited to sit on the porch with a spectacular view of Field 1 to watch the featured Sunday matches. New Bridge offers country living without the inconveniences of country distances. Cottage-style bungalows are situated on residential lots lining Field 1, as well as larger estate houses with the option to buy or build.

New Bridge Polo & County Club has been host to numerous prestigious tournaments over the years such as the USPA Gold Cup® in 2005 and 2006, as well as the USPA Monty Waterbury Cup from 2008 - 2010. General Manager Raza Kazmi attributes New Bridge’s success to the superior quality of their fields. Originally designed by Magrini, the current condition of the fields is an obvious result of his dedication to the details of their construction. The gorgeous fields are, Kazmi asserts, the primary draw of players both nationally and internationally.

New Bridge offers two competitive polo seasons: spring (end of April - beginning of June) and fall (end of September - October). After a recent collaboration with neighboring Wagener Polo Club, the club now encompasses all levels of polo, ranging from 4- to 12-goal tournaments, including the USPA Bronze Trophy which begins this week. Conveniently located in the middle of the East Coast, it is a well-situated middle point for players and teams traveling to Florida for the winter and summer clubs in the Northeast, West and Midwest. Club amenities for polo include an exercise track and miles of unpaved roads for relaxing day-off trail rides. During the polo season, member practices are offered three times a week when pros and amateurs play together.

New Bridge Polo & Country Club Trophy Photo Derry Heir LBL Polo
Photo Credit: Katie Roth

What began as solely polo has been diversified to include a turnkey equestrian operation aptly referred to as “The Stables.” Accommodating dressage riders, hunter-jumpers, fox hunters, eventers and carriage driving alike; New Bridge caters to all equine disciplines. An exciting addition, considering the broad span of equine disciplines that can be found within many of their member families. On many occasions, one can find a polo player who also participates in other equine disciplines schooling their horses in the state-of-the-art, 30,000 square-foot jumping ring with All Weather GGT footing.

Family is another exceptional quality fostered by the club. Numerous members boast father-son and father-daughter playing duos. In fact, this family-oriented polo culminated in the fall season when 8-goaler Julio Arellano won the USPA Pete Bostwick Memorial 12-Goal alongside his three children, Agustin, Lucas and Hope Arellano.

Amista Polo Team Julio Arellano, Hope Arellano, Lucas Arellano, Agustin Arellano
USPA Pete Bostwick Memorial 12-Goal Champions: Amista Polo - Lucas Arellano, Agustin Arellano, Julio Arellano, Hope Arellano. Photo Credit: Katie Roth

When asked to give his advice to aspiring polo players and newcomers to the sport, McCall quickly answered, “join a club.” Contrary to popular belief McCall asserts that, “you don’t need more than one horse to play polo, play two practice chukkers on one horse with a long break in between, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Go in at the level you want, small scale or big scale.” He continued by saying that, “Joining a club like New Bridge allows amateurs the opportunity to learn from the people around them. Go to practice, get coached by your peers and if you like it, expand. Estimating about $300 a month for an annual membership, it is well worth the investment. Or get it for free as a property owner!” Not to mention, members and residents also have use of the swimming pool and clay tennis courts.

New Bridge echoes an older era of American polo--when polo was not just a hobby but a lifestyle and a fixture in the greater community. New Bridge is truly a microcosm of its adjacent horse-obsessed town. “It’s about the scenic countryside, the good friends and neighbors and the ability to live in a special place where we can enjoy our horses, no matter the discipline,” said McCall in his welcome address in the 2015-2016 New Bridge Polo & Country Club Magazine. For more information on New Bridge, visit their website, follow them on Instagram and “Like” them on Facebook for up-to-date schedules of tournaments and events.