At Union Hill Polo Club in Canton, crowds are a diverse mix of families, couples, polo fans and newbies to the sport. The parking lot turns into a tailgating party, where spectators pull out all the stops: grills smoking with burgers and chicken, spreads of appetizers, and coolers of beer and wine.
“We challenge that we’re more fun than any other tailgate in the city,” says Jenny Kepano, marketing and events coordinator for the club.
The sport of polo is a hybrid of the rigor of hockey, the precision of golf, and the speed of horse racing. It’s an intense sport marked with speed, agility and athletic prowess from both man and horse. The action on the field is exciting to watch and rivals any other spectator sport.
Polo first came to the United States in 1876, brought over from England, where it had become successful since the Persian noblemen and British aristocrats played the sport. Polo is played on horseback with a long-handled mallet and a wooden ball. Two teams of four players compete during two hours in Chukkers, six timed periods. The field itself is the largest of any organized sport, at 300 yards long and 160 yards wide.
Union Hill Polo Club was founded by Dr. Eric Steenlage in 2010. For its size, Atlanta has relatively few polo clubs–five in total. There wasn’t a club that combined both the faster games and the fun social environment that is associated with polo. Steenlage, who had become an avid polo player and enjoyed watching the sport, created the club to fill the gap in Atlanta’s polo scene.
Union Hill Polo Club strives to be a club that combines both great polo for all levels in both the Arena and Field, as well as provide a social scene that is enjoyed by all. Anyone with an interest is encouraged to learn the game. All levels are welcome, even if you’ve never played polo or ridden a horse. Private and group lessons are available for anyone to take, and range from 30 minutes to a full day.
Ella Shalom Smith, Steenlage’s sister, started taking riding lessons after moving to Atlanta to help her brother open the club. Even with working a full-time job and raising her 7-year-old son, Smith still practices twice a week, in addition to playing weekend games. She touts that polo is a family- and animal-friendly environment.
“Having a slight competitive spirit and love for horses, I found a perfect way to combine the two with polo,” says Smith. “Growing up on a working farm in Wisconsin and being the youngest of eight children, hard work was the only way to being a good ‘farmer.’ Polo is like farming in a whole different aspect, but with the same concepts. There are endless hours put into starting a Polo club, but seeing the payoff is rewarding.”
Ella moved to Atlanta from Wisconsin in 2010 to help Steenlage with the opening of the club. The siblings, along with their brother Keith, worked hard to prepare the 26 acres of land in Canton; learning about irrigation, fertilization, aeration, weed control and mowing.
Since its beginnings, Union Hill Polo Club’s team now has evolved to 15 active members. The spring and summer season has games on Sundays at 2 p.m. Visitors are invited to spectate, pack a picnic and tailgate before the game. With free admission, polo could become the new weekend afternoon tradition.
Beyond the matches, Union Hill Polo Club rents out their facilities for corporate events, parties and bocce ball games, perfect for an outdoor event. And of course, any event rental includes a polo game.
Union Hill Polo Club
430 Roper Road, Canton
For info: firstname.lastname@example.org