CPH Polo – How To Start A Polo Club and Community
Polo is fairly new in Denmark, with the Danish Polo Association established only in 2012 and the first polo club was established in 2015.
In 2013 the first polo event was hosted in one of the parks in central Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Polo Open (which was actually the subject of my Master’s Thesis, but more on that another time), two years later the Scandinavian Beach Polo World Cup was hosted on the pristine beach of Hornbæk. Both events attracted a lot of attention from the Danes and the media following, making it a big success and attracting more people to give it a try.
The Copenhagen Polo Club is currently owned and managed by Christian Green, I stopped by for a little 2-on-2 chukker action and a chat with Christian on my last visit to Denmark.
Diana: How do you feel the Danes have welcomed the sport? Was there a lot of interest from the beginning? Is there more or less interest now?
Christian: Most people – also in Denmark – have heard of polo (thanks to Ralph Lauren and Pretty Woman), but few know what it actually is. It is really interesting to hear various perceptions of what the sport is and also a great deal of prejudice and misunderstanding. After the sport has been more visible in Denmark for the last couple of years, we feel that the interest is suddenly growing rapidly. It seems many have been hesitant at first but are now starting to approach us for lessons. The interest is very positive and we very rarely get negative sentiment around the sport. Most people are very curious and excited to learn more. When they try it once they are instantly hooked! It’s amazing to see.
Which initiatives have you, as the polo club owner and DPA member, taken to spread the enthusiasm of the sport in Denmark?
We wanted to make the sport more visible, of course, but in different ways. Part of our plan has been to organise more events – big and small – throughout the year. The Danes may have heard of polo but to really understand what it is, they need to experience it. So we try to showcase the sport through both big and bold events with luxury brand sponsors and champagne. But also the more low-key, family friendly “Sunday Polo” events where everyone can come and see the sport up close. In all of our events we try to make the sport spectator friendly and focus on the show, atmosphere and the setting. E.g. we don’t mind playing on a smaller field with a bigger ball. Also, we make sure to use a good commentator who can draw the audience into the game and understand the sport. We focus a lot of our marketing on social media and local press. We like to invite people out like yourself, who have a good amount of followers on social media to spread the word. And we have an ambassador corps.
Can you tell which are the deciding factors for people who decide to join? What wins them over?
It varies. For some it’s the full-contact aspect and the action factor that drives. For others it is the fact that it is a social sport and that we have a very nice group of people playing, making it a fun, social experience to learn. Convenience is also a factor as (at least in Denmark) polo is the only equestrian sport you can do without owning your own horse. People who have ridden horses in the past but gave up as it became too time consuming find polo a nice and convenient way to get back to riding and at the same time in a new and social way. Most people start with our short one-hour intro to polo. It’s a great taste of what the sport is and most people are hooked and want to explore more. For those ready to take a bigger step we offer the “polo boot camp”. An intense, five-day program finishing with playing the first real match. From there people continue on to either join our weekly classes or a more individual training program with private lessons. We also do our very popular polo team-building corporate events. They can also be a great way for people to discover the sport as people with no riding experience realise that polo horses are fun and easy to ride. We have boots and helmets, so people can just show up in jeans and get going.
How do you see the sport evolving in Denmark?
It is still very early days for the sport but we are really starting to see traction. I see the sport growing to about 40-50 active players and 1-2 serious international tournaments per year. One more club or two would be great to give the sport more substance but I am not sure it will happen in the short term.
The Copenhagen Polo Club has moved locations a few times, tell us a bit about that and the new location.
It started very small as more of a grass-roots movement than a club. I think the original founders of the club struggled to find a place where polo could fit in as it obviously clashes with other equestrian sports! The new owners took over the club in 2016 and were lucky to find a great base to grow from very quickly. It is a beautiful private seaside estate located just 30 min. North of Copenhagen. The owner of the estate has done a fantastic job of restoring what was for many years a worn-down facility run by the local council for juvenile recreation. The stables and arenas were used for showjumping but are well suited for polo as well with a stunning indoor arena in a design inspired by a historic royal equestrian arena. With a practice grass field and a beautiful showground overlooking the sea – as well as potential for more and bigger fields – we have a longer term location and place to grow from. The mansion-style feeling of the place is just a nice bonus, as it taps into the values that many Danes associate with polo.
Tell us about the events at Kokkedal Slot.
Kokkedal Slot Copenhagen is a luxury hotel and spa which was a few years back supposed to be a base for the club. Unfortunately it was not possible to host the club there but since then we have used the park in front of the castle to showcase the sport. It is not a real polo field but a small park that can be used for two-aside or three-aside arena style polo on grass. It is a beautiful venue for showcasing the sport. The main building was erected as an aristocratic summer estate in 1746 and is today meticulously restored as a luxury hotel. The green grass and the pristine white castle is a stunning setting for a “polo in the park” style event. With our new home base and larger, well-groomed polo pitch by the sea we are for future events focussing more on creating bigger events here. This year we hosted Land Rover Polo by the Sea which was a huge success and big step forward for us. We will develop this concept further for the coming years.
What is the general ratio of the members/players here at CPC?
We have (at the moment) slightly more women than men, but generally it has been a quite even split. Age-wise it is a really wide split. From 10 to almost 60!
Stay tuned for more news on BDO Polo Open 2018. A three-day international event on the 24–25-26th of August. International teams, full-on grass polo action with a stunning view of the sea! Get your tickets here.