Polo, for the people09/22/2023 12:41PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photos by Jim Coarse, Moonloop Photography
If at first you do not believe it, see it for yourself.
Since it first arrived in the United States in the 1870s, the spectator sport of polo has been traditionally reserved for the old money set and festooned with the formality of the privileged, who bask in the glory playing chukkas on a wide expanse of green and intervals, its neckshots and its tailshots and those on beautiful galloping polo ponies.
Yet, to visit attend a polo match at the Brandywine Polo Club in nearby Toughkenamon during one of their 44 public matches -- or at any one of its packed social calendar of public events -- is to witness the gentle mingle of faces who form the communities of southern Chester County. It is to drive past not only the highest-end vehicles but family sedans, and to indulge not just in the daintiness of haute cuisine and champagne but homemade subs and a six-pack of a local IPA.
Supported by a calendar chock full of events, the Brandywine Polo Club is formal and informal, well-refined and often fun and a little boisterous – a visit to the club’s Saturday Starlight Polo theme nights is a must -- and by doing so, it is achieving its greatest goal.
To be polo, for the people.
“We want the entire community to know that the Brandywine Polo Club is a fun and family- friendly atmosphere, and their experiences here can be as high-class as they want or as casual as they want,” said Michael Bucklin, board vice president. “Some people arrive dressed up with their big hats and drink champagne and some people arrive wearing their weekend work clothes – all to enjoy a sport that is fun, fast and exciting. It is that ‘come one, come all’ sense of camaraderie that is helping to define who we have become.”
While the Brandywine Polo Club is for everyone to enjoy, it is also a welcoming place to learn the sport not just on the sidelines but on horseback. Under the direction of Ata and Olivia Alonso, the Brandywine Polo School offers opportunities for students of all ages and skill levels to learn the basics of horsemanship, riding skills, mallet control and game strategy.
“It begins with showing up, signing a release, putting your foot in the stirrup, and with the support of trained professionals, you’re hitting a ball with a mallet, whether you are five years old or 70 years old,” said Bucklin, who was introduced to the sport just five years ago and has been playing competitively for the past four years. “Some people get hooked and excel to the next level, and others are just happy to hit the ball around once a week, but either way, it becomes a thrill like none other.”
Club Coordinator and Marketing Director Elizabeth Hedley said that the success of the Brandywine Polo Club -- that began with the vision of its founder James McHugh in 1951 -- continues through to today due in part to the community of friends, family, neighbors, polo players and loyal spectators who make up this club.
“The Brandywine Polo Club is so much more than a polo club,” she said. “Couples have met here, gotten married here and now their children play polo here. Attending Sunday polo is a tradition in many families, and we can only hope those who admire these photographs from Jim Coarse will be inspired to make it a tradition of theirs.”
The Brandywine Polo Club is located at 232 Polo Road, Toughkenamon, Pa. 19374 and offers summer polo June-September every Friday & Sunday and every other Saturday. For a full calendar of events, and information about the Brandywine Polo School, visit www.brandywinepolo.com, or call the Polo Hotline at (833) BPC-POLO.