History of Polo in the US

# What is the history of Polo in the United States?

Polo is one of the oldest equestrian sports in the world, also referred to as “The Game of Kings”. It is a game of speed, skill and teamwork, played by two teams of four players on horseback, who use long mallets to hit a small ball into the opposing team’s goal.

## Early years

Polo was first played in the United States in **1876**, introduced by **James Gordon Bennett Jr.**, a wealthy newspaper publisher who had first observed the game played in England . Bennett is considered the father of American polo, as he assembled the players, equipment and horses to play the first matches in the country. He also helped establish the **Westchester Polo Club**, the first polo club in America, located in Newport, Rhode Island .

Polo began to spread throughout the U.S., and many destinations still operate their centuries-old clubs. In 1886, the U.S. team faced Great Britain in the first **Westchester Cup** match, a prestigious international competition that continues to this day. In 1890, the **United States Polo Association (USPA)** was created to govern the sport and promote its growth. The USPA also introduced a system of player handicaps, which rates each player’s skill level and ensures fair and balanced matches.

## Modern era

Polo was played in the Olympics from 1900 to 1936, with the U.S. winning five medals (one gold, three silver and one bronze). In 1904, the first **U.S. Open Polo Championship** was held in New York City, and it remains the most prestigious tournament in American polo. In 1915, the **Indoor Polo Association** was formed for arena polo, a variant of polo played on smaller fields with walls and a larger ball.

In the 1930s, polo reached its peak popularity in America, with crowds of over 30,000 attending matches at the Meadowbrook Polo Club on Long Island. Some of the most famous players of this era were **Tommy Hitchcock Jr.**, **Devereux Milburn** and **Elbridge T. Gerry Sr.**, who led the U.S. team to several Westchester Cup victories.

After World War II, polo declined in popularity due to social and economic changes, but it experienced a resurgence in the 1970s, especially in Texas, where cowboys adapted to the sport. The USPA also registered women players for the first time in 1972, and created programs to support youth polo and intercollegiate polo. In 1981, the USPA launched its licensing program to manage its trademarks and promote the sport of polo through its official brand, U.S. Polo Assn..

In 1989, the U.S. team won its first **Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Cup** in Berlin, a tournament created to foster global participation and development of polo. In 1997, the **Polo Museum and Hall of Fame** opened its doors in Lake Worth, Florida, to preserve and celebrate the history and culture of polo. In 2004, the **International Polo Club Palm Beach** opened in Wellington, Florida, becoming the new home of high-goal polo and hosting major tournaments such as the U.S. Open Polo Championship.

Today, polo is played by over 4,500 individual members and 250 clubs across the U.S. and Canada. The USPA continues to provide resources and support for its members and clubs, as well as developing programs to attract new players and spectators to the sport. Some of these programs include Regional Polo Centers, Team USPA, Work to Ride and Pony Club . Polo is also featured in media outlets such as “60 Minutes”, which aired a special segment on polo’s resurgence in America and its social impact in 2012.