Polo by the Sea

The historic Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club offers equine thrills for all

Story by Mike Miller, Photos by Michelle Lauren Photography

If you are looking for a thrilling sporting event with lots of action, great food and drinks, majestic horses, and thousands of beautiful people, look no further than the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club. The Central Coast is home to some of the best polo competition in the world, and the Santa Barbara grounds are a destination for both diehard polo fans and those looking to watch the sport for the very first time.

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the base of the mountains surrounding Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club has a special feel about it and is a special place to spend the day with friends and family.

“We offer a magical experience for our guests and have full-service food and beverages, including the best margaritas in town. Most people do not know that we are open to the public, but we cater to groups and parties. Our club is fun, social, and a beautiful place to be,” said general manager David Sigman.

The Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club is the third-oldest polo club in the country, having been around for 114 years. It also boasts the longest active polo season in the United States, which runs from May to October. “If you have never seen polo live, I highly encourage everyone to come see the action for themselves. It is amazing, fast, and exhilarating,” added Sigman.

A polo field is the size of ten football fields, with a goal at each end. Teams are comprised of four players on each side with players serving as offensive, defensive, and tactical leaders. Two mounted umpires also add to the entertainment as they navigate into position to oversee the action. The pace is so fast that riders will rotate through multiple horses, sometimes up to eight or ten times per game. A polo match will usually conclude within a two-hour period, which include four to six chukkers, or periods. Known as the King’s Sport, polo has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially in Florida and California. According to Sigman, polo teams follow the weather and compete in Florida during the winter months and then return to California in the spring and summer. Polo has also started to get primetime coverage on ESPN, proving its gain in popularity across the United States.

“Polo is a beautiful balance between the players and the horses. The horses get going up to 30 miles per hour with the players maneuvering around the horses as though they are one. It is impressive and thrilling to watch,” added Sigman.

The Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club season offers 22 polo Sundays and 16 Friday Happy Hour events. The season also features four high goal tournament events, which are highly competitive and bring out the sport’s biggest enthusiasts. Game day at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club consists of a pony parade, the national anthem, line-up announcements, the ball toss, the match, divot stomps, and a trophy presentation. And then, the real party begins.

You can get surprisingly close to the action at the polo fields.

“The polo lifestyle is all about being seen, getting dressed up, drinking champagne, and just enjoying the competition. It is also a great place to meet new friends,” remarked Sigman.

One of the most popular parts of the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club experience is the divot stomp. That is where spectators enter the field to replace the divots to ensure the playing surface is as flat as possible. For their efforts, the stompers are rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing they are contributing to the quality of play that afternoon, but more importantly, adults get a free glass of sparkling wine. In addition to hosting some of the best polo action in the world, the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club is also home to a premier tennis facility, which includes eight courts, a pool, fitness center, and multiple teaching professionals.

The club’s onsite restaurant is called the Fieldside Grill, which has great reviews to go along with a delicious lunch and dinner menu. Chef Michael Amador has brought in a new vibe and new flavors, while the service is also top notch — as it is throughout the entire facility.

The polo is great around here, but so is the company (and the hats!)

If you are looking to take in some polo action, Fridays are free of charge, while general admission tickets for Sunday games can be purchased online or at the venue for $30. Spectators also have the ability to rent a cabana or a table in a corporate tent.

According to Sigman, the NetJets Pacific Coast Open is a must-see event if you are trying to plan ahead. The tournament is part of the High Goal Series and will feature some of the most accomplished players and horses in the sport. The NetJets Pacific Coast Open will run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 3.

For more information on the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club experience, visit sbpolo.com or call (805) 684-6683. When you visit the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, you are sure to have a terrific family-friendly experience on one of the most stunning pieces of property on the Central Coast. Happy divot stomping!