It’s the sport of kings. From the powerhouse horses to the beautiful people-watching, polo in Palm Beach is all about the pomp and circumstance. 

By Kara Franker
January 25, 2019
Courtesy of U.S. Polo Association

It’s officially polo season in Florida! Which means ample opportunity to sip Champagne and practice the divot stomp made famous by Julia Roberts wearing that dashing cocoa-colored polka dot dress in Pretty Woman. Or maybe you saw Meghan Markle in a lovely gingham sundress, galivanting on the field in true royal fashion at husband Prince Harry’s polo match.

Samir Hussein/Contributor/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Handout/Getty Images

So what exactly is polo? Officially known as the Sport of Kings, it involves four players on each team, mounted on horses and wielding long wooden mallets that they use to attempt to drive a small wooden ball through the opponents’ goal. And the field is the equivalent of nine American football fields, so you really get the chance to see polo ponies open up and gallop at full speed. Exciting to watch and involving a high level of athletic skill, polo resembles a fast-paced combo of soccer and croquet on horseback.

The fashion is just as much of an attraction as the main event. Well-heeled spectators attend matches decked out in glamorous attire and fancy hats. The divot stomp doubles as a designer fashion show and sometimes awards are given to the best dressed. At half-time, fans meander out of the stands to stomp small patches of grass and dirt torn up by polo ponies back into place—all while snapping photos and drinking bubbly.

Courtesy of International Polo Club in Palm Beach

The 2019 season kicked off on December 30 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach and runs through April 21. Located in Wellington (horse country in Palm Beach County), the club is one of the premiere destinations in the world for professional polo tournaments. Matches are open to the public and held on picture-perfect Sunday afternoons. We are talking about the balmy winter season in Florida after all! (Also located in Wellington, Grand Champions Polo Club hosts matches January through April and admission is free.)

The best seats in the house are at The Pavilion, where spectators indulge in an extravagant fieldside brunch with plenty of free-flowing Champagne. And while it may be a royal sport, polo isn’t just for the jet-setting crowd. General admission tickets at the club start at just $10 per person.

New this year, the International Polo Club Palm Beach teamed up with the U.S. Polo Association to bring together the world’s most skilled players and ponies to compete over a three-month period for the Gauntlet of Polo championship series. A grueling competition, teams will battle head-to-head for the C.V. Whitney Cup (February 13-24), USPA Gold Cup (February 24 - March 24) and the U.S. Open Polo Championship (March 27 - April 21)—all at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. And it’s about more than just the trophies. The winner of all three tournaments scores a cool $1 million, the largest purse in the history of the sport.

Related: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Attend Their First Public Event Together as He Plays Polo for Charity

While Palm Beach is the undisputed polo headquarters, other Florida towns also get in on the action. Every spring, Miami Beach hosts the Beach Polo World Cup directly on the sand in South Beach. It’s quite a sight to see, and in 2019, the festivities are scheduled to take place April 25-28. The Sarasota Polo Club hosts a full schedule of tournaments every Sunday from December to April. In central Florida, The Villages Polo Club hosts well-attended matches in March, April, and May. Additionally, there are a variety of private polo clubs like The Polo Club of Boca Raton and the Palm City Polo Club, where members including everyone from novices to experts, can practice their game or take lessons.

No matter where you watch a game of polo, take a cue from Julia Roberts and Meghan Markle and don’t forget the fancy hat.