Polo looks set to score big in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am

Mahjong losing its thrill? Backgammon becoming a bit of a bore? Try polo, the horseback sport known as the Game of Kings. It's expected to be the next big thing in China for the well heeled - and well mounted.

The Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, which is part of a large-scale property project developed by Hong Kong-listed Goldin Properties Holdings, is being launched today in the Binhai Hi-tech Park in southeastern Tianjin.

It will be the biggest of the very few polo clubs across a country where people are more used to swinging a golf club than a polo mallet.

'Polo is the latest trend in China. We are confident it will be very well received by more people in northern China, who are known for their love of horses,' said Rowland Wong Kwok-ho, president of the private club. He said the property developer was looking for sites to build more polo clubs in two other major mainland cities.

The Tianjin club site covers 890,000 square metres. It includes a polo clubhouse, two international-sized polo fields with stabling and training for up to 150 horses, an outdoor dining area, a hotel, a theme park and auxiliary polo sports facilities.

Compared to golf, Wong said, polo is more environmentally friendly, more fun - and also more expensive.

Memberships for the patron owners of polo teams are priced as high as 10 million yuan (HK$11.6 million) at the club. Joining the polo teams costs 2 million yuan and ordinary social members need to pay at least 200,000 yuan to enjoy the facilities and equestrian services.

The club has invited individuals and corporates to join, but Wong declined to say how many had accepted the offer.

'We will set up a panel to assess members' applications. The only criterion we have for our members is that he should be an honourable person,' he added.

The club was targeting senior executives, businessmen and people from multinational corporations and local government bureaus as potential clients.

The club will host its first match, the Metropolitan Polo Club Trophy, today and more international polo tournaments, horse riding performances, outdoor carnivals and fashion shows are expected to be staged in future. Asked why the developer chose a polo club rather than a golf club, Wong said a polo club was more suited to the high-end concept of the whole project and the size of the block of land available.

There are around 400 golf courses across the country. The government has tightened approvals for golf course construction in recent years as many of the courses have been built on farmland illegally.

Polo originated in Persia in the 5th century BC. Players on horseback score by driving a small, white ball into the opposing team's goal with a long-handled mallet.