To many, the rules of polo can be quite mysterious. This is because there are a few terms that are thrown around that can be somewhat unfamiliar, or at least may not mean what a player thinks it means.
One major question is, ‘what is a polo goal called’? In US polo, it called a point, i.e., when the ball travels between the two posts. The term goal is very rarely used. When it is used in polo, it means something a little bit different.
Whenever a goal is scored, the number of points that the scoring team has will increase by one. Whichever team has the most points at the end of a game of polo will be classed as the winner.
Here, I want to start by talking a little bit about goalposts and scoring points. These are some important things to understand about polo. I am then going to wrap up by talking about the actual meaning of the term ‘goal’ when it comes to polo in the United States.
What Is The Size of Polo Goal?
In the outdoor version of polo, the goalposts will be 8-yards (7.3 meters). When the game is taken indoors, the polo goals are slightly closer together. This is to accommodate the smaller size of the playing area.
Interestingly, when the game of polo first started, there wasn’t actually any goal on the field. Instead, the entire end of the field was classified as a goal. If the ball managed to reach that point, then a goal would be awarded.
This made the game a whole lot easier, so the rules were changed. There are still some versions of polo that have no goal, although many of these are played in India (where polo originates from)
Why Does The Size of The Polo Goal Sometimes Increases?
If there is a tie at the end of the final period of the game, then polo rules will allow the size of the goal to be increased. The size of the goal will effectively double in this time.
Of course, the intention is to make it a little bit easier for the players to score, and this will wrap up the game a little bit quicker.
Are the polo goal posts safe for horses?
Absolutely! Nobody wants to see a horse injured on the polo field, and this is something that is incredibly rare. In fact, the entire game of modern polo has been designed to ensure that the horses are as safe as possible while playing. This includes the goalposts.
The goalposts have been designed to be flexible. This means that if a horse runs into them, the goalposts will just ‘collapse’. The horse should suffer no injuries if it collides with a goal post and will be able to continue to play as normal.
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How Do Penalty Shots at The Goal in Polo Works?
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When a foul is committed in polo, the fouled team will have a free shot at the goals. How easy this shot is will be dependent on the severity of the foul. It is up to the referee in the game to determine how serious the foul was and to issue the correct penalty. These are some of the penalties that may be issued in the game:
- In the case of a serious foul, the fouled team will be awarded an automatic point. There will be no penalty shot.
- A free shot may be taken from the 30-yard line that is closest to the fouling team’s goal
- A free shot may be taken from the 50-yard line that is closest to the fouling team’s goal
- A free shot from the 60-yeard line closest to the fouling team’s goal
- A shot from the spot where the foul occurred. This can be an obstructed shot i.e. the team can defend the shot.
What Does It Mean When a Team Already Has Points Before The Match Starts?
Ever noticed that, sometimes, when you watch a game of polo one of the teams will already have a score on the board? No. This isn’t an error in the scoreboard! It means that one of the teams is playing with a handicap.
The handicap intends to ensure that both of the teams are on a level playing field. By allowing the ‘worse’ team to start with a couple of goals ahead, they have more chance of winning.
The handicap advantage will never, ever be enough to guarantee a win on the field, but it does help to make the game a lot more competitive. It ensures that teams are not heading onto the field, knowing that they are going to lose, which can be quite demoralizing!
What Does Handicap Mean in Polo?
In polo, every player on the field will have a handicap rating. This is what is referred to as a ‘goal.’ This rating can be as low as -2 and as high as 10. The rating is assigned by the polo committee. It is meant to signify how good the player is. The higher the number, the better. Novice players will always start out with a rating of -2 until they have proven their riding and polo skills.
You would think that 10 is the rating of a professional. It isn’t. Professional polo players tend to have a goal handicap of 5. It is exceedingly rare to have a handicap of 10. In fact, at the time of writing, there are only around 20 players in the world that have managed to achieve a rating that high.
At the start of the match, the handicap for each team will be added up. The difference between the two scores will be worked out. For example:
- Team 1 has a total rating of 5
- Team 2 has a total rating of 7
The difference in goal score is 2. This means that team 1 will start with a 2 goal advantage.
Do remember that this is probably not something that will happen in polo games for fun. Most of the time, you will only ever see a goal rating uses for competitive matches.
The term ‘goal’ in polo can be used to refer to both points scored on the field and the handicap rating. If you are playing amateur polo at a ‘just for fun’ level, then it is more likely to refer to the latter.