Without much fanfare, the sport of polo has been trickling down from the champagne set to the folks who make do with vin ordinaire. At 155 U.S. Polo Association clubs and at dozens of "fun polo" clubs, novices are finding that they can get started for relatively little, the costs being that of a club membership and those of purchasing and maintaining one agile pony.
There's one problem with this democratization of polo: Because formal instruction in the game has been almost nonexistent for years, matches among beginners are usually ragged and don't ever get much better. In hopes of remedying this, the Palm Beach ( Fla.) Polo and Country Club, the 11-field home of the World Cup Championships, is offering a series of three-day clinics this winter designed to get beginners off on the right hoof.
Instruction will cover selection and use of equipment, horsemanship, hitting the ball, rules, team play and the choosing, care and basic training of ponies. The package will include: the use of ponies for several hours a day; all equipment except white britches and boots; lectures, instructional films and videotapes of students in action; cocktail parties and two lunches; and admission to any Sunday matches that happen to be scheduled.
The school will be supervised by Allan Scherer, once coach at Stanford and an adept international player. Scherer promises small, personal classes and scrimmages and guidance in locating places to play.
Prospective students must have basic riding skills. They will also need good hand-eye coordination and plenty of nerve. Despite polo's genteel image, players are routinely subject to collisions, spills and opponents who strike them with mallets aforethought.
The clinics cost $350 and begin on the following Fridays: Nov. 27, Jan. 1, Jan. 22 and Feb. 19. For information write: Polo School, Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, 13198 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, Fla. 33411, or telephone: (305) 793-1113.