In this interview with the Oakwood Park Polo Club (formerly the FHM Polo Club), club owner Francis Matthews shares what its like to play polo at Oakwood with PoloWeekly – including what makes the club special and how most people get started. To learn more about the club, visit their website here.
Can you give us a brief background on your club?
The club started in 1999 under the banner of the FHM Polo Club at West End Farm and at Burgess Hill as an arena club. At the time, I was playing at Knepp Castle and I needed a place to exercise my horses as Knepp do not run an arena season. I then started inviting friends to come and try and could see that it was becoming very popular.
Today, our facilities include a full size polo field and stick and ball field with a raised viewing area for spectators. We also have a covered yard for 12 horses and space for an extensive yard and will be soon commencing work on a full size arena.
What makes your club unique?
Unlike many clubs, Oakwood Park has been HPA affiliated since the 2004 – 2005 season for both grass and arena polo.
What sort of process do members typically go through when joining your club?
The majority of our members typically participate in a couple of one to one lessons and then join instructional group sessions before they take the HPA rules test. After that, they would normally progress on to full membership. In terms of active membership, we typically have around 20.
Can members from international clubs come and participate in your tournaments?
We are happy to receive new players, but we are mainly geared for County Polo, which is a format devised by myself and Claire Tomlinson. This style of play is mainly directed at amateur players and chukkers consist of 3 on 3 play on a reduced field.
Are you seeing a lot of new people interested in playing polo?
We are seeing a lot of interest from local Universities – particularly girls. We are also seeing interest from new adult members who tend to be local professionals from various sectors, but we’re seeing equal numbers of women and men.
Where is the best place for people to learn more information about your club?