Polo clubs in Sotogrande, close to Marbella, Estepona, Benahavis 2 Jan, 2024 Manolo Alarcon
Polo clubs in Sotogrande are on the list of the best in the world. Polo, known as “the Sport of Kings”, has one of its great international meccas in Sotogrande. Of course, the unique landscape of Sotogrande has a lot to do with it, with its incredible views of the sea and the mountains.
Sotogrande boasts no less than 5 polo clubs: Santa Maria Polo Club, Ayala Polo Club, Polo Valley, Iridike Polo Club and Dos Lunas Polo Club.
And all polo clubs in Sotogrande are located less than 1 hour by car from Marbella city. So, if you live in Marbella, Estepona, Benahavis or Sotogrande and you are a polo fan, you are in the right place!
Santa Maria Polo Club
Santa María Polo Club is the first polo club to open in Sotogrande. With its 9 courts and luxurious facilities, it is considered one of the 5 best polo clubs in the world.
Its history is closely linked to that of an authentic family saga, that of the Zóbels, which combines Filipino, Spanish and German origins. In fact, the entire history of Sotogrande is inseparable from this family.
The origins of the saga are located in the Philippines, in the 19th century. Dr. Johannes Andreas Zóbel, a pharmacist of German origin, emigrated to Manila and opened the first chemical laboratory in the Philippines there in 1834. His son, Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz married Trinidad de Ayala, a descendant of an illustrious family originally from Álava, in the Basque Country (and owner of important industries in the Philippines). Their children decided to combine their surnames and be called Zóbel de Ayala, to preserve their Hispanic origins.
The family arrived in what is now known as Sotogrande in the 60s of the last century. One of their descendants, Mercedes Zóbel de Ayala, had married the American businessman Joseph McMicking. In 1964, the couple decided to open a golf club near the mouth of the Guadiaro River. The first homes would be built around it, intended for the users of that field, and that is how Sotogrande was born: elite sport gave birth to the population, and not the other way around!
Enrique Zóbel founds the first polo court in Sotogrande
Indeed, golf was not the only sport that played a part in the origins of Sotogrande. In 1965, Enrique Zóbel, nephew of Joseph and Mercedes, built the legendary La Playa polo field. The Santa Maria Polo Club was born and the “Sport of Kings” made its entry into Sotogrande.
At first they were simply family tournaments, with a small group of aficionados. However, the number of these did not stop growing. In the seventies, the Sotogrande polo cups (Gold, Silver and Bronze Cups) were organized. The name of Sotogrande was beginning to sound strongly in the world of polo.
La Playa polo court had an unexpected and tragic end. A violent sea storm completely destroyed it in 1984. However, the Santa Maria Golf Club soon recovered. During the following two years, the two El Río courses were built (they currently exist and organize medium and high handicap tournaments). The Santa Maria Polo Club is located very close to the emblematic Sotogrande Marina, the charming leisure and fashion center.
An incredible space of more than 1 million square meters
Since its rebirth, the club has not stopped growing. Currently, the Santa Maria Polo Club has impressive facilities of more than one million square meters, spread over 3 areas.
It is the main area. The high handicap matches of the International Summer Tournament and a large part of the winter tournaments are traditionally played there. It has 4 playing courts and one for tackling. The After Polo Sotogrande nightlife area is also located there. Its construction began in 2002 and ended in 2008. The opening of this area crowned the Santa María Polo Club as one of the largest and most important polo clubs in the world.
Currently this area has two polo courts. It also has a tent for events and the La Quinta restaurant. High and medium handicap matches from the International Summer Tournament and other winter and spring tournaments are played there. It was the main area of the club from its opening in 1986 until the creation of Los Pinos.
PUENTE DE HIERRO:
It has three courts, two of them used for medium and low handicap matches during the International Summer Tournament. They were inaugurated in 1992. They are home to the 39 impressive state-of-the-art stables available to the club. Inaugurated in July 2010, they have the “5 star” category.
A calendar of more than 30 tournaments
The club’s annual competition calendar is made up of more than 30 tournaments, among which the traditional Gold, Silver and Bronze Cups stand out, as well as the José Ignacio Domecq Memorial, the Santa María Open and the Enrique Zobel Founder’s Cup.
Now, the most important has always been the International Polo Tournament, one of the main competitions in the world. In fact, the high handicap Gold Cup in this tournament is one of the events that make up the Grand Slam.
Beyond the exciting matches, Santa María Polo Club offers a luxurious and welcoming atmosphere for both players and spectators. The elegant clubhouse, with its gorgeous Andalusian architecture, offers a magnificent setting to socialize and enjoy the polo lifestyle. Visitors can savor exquisite cuisine, enjoy premium beverages and immerse themselves in the vibrant social scene surrounding the “Sport of Kings.”
The club’s commitment to the sport extends beyond the tournament season as it actively promotes polo at all levels. Santa María Polo Club hosts training programs, youth initiatives and amateur tournaments. In this way, it encourages the growth of polo and ensures its accessibility to enthusiasts of different levels.
Ayala Polo Club
As we indicated previously, the Zóbel saga continues with the Ayala Polo Club. Its founder in 1970 was Iñigo Zóbel, one of the sons of Enrique Zóbel (the creator of the Santa María Polo Club). And currently his daughter (and granddaughter of the founder), Paola Zóbel, runs it.
With more than half a century of history, the Ayala Polo Club is a classic of this sport in its own right. And its place among the greatest polo clubs in the world has been consecrated in 2022. From this year, the Ayala Polo Club is in charge of organizing the Sotogrande International Polo Tournament, after the agreement signed with its “older brother”, the Santa Maria Polo Club (which organized the 50th Edition of the tournament in 2021).
The Ayala Polo Club is located about 3 kilometers north of Santa María Polo Club. It is a beautiful area further inland and into the mountains, known as Hacienda de San Enrique. In 2005, the Ayala Polo Club underwent a major expansion and remodeling. It currently has two headquarters, Ayala Central and Ayala Los Pinos.
The club has three professional polo courts and three exercise tracks, a covered riding arena and three groups of private stables with capacity for 400 horses. In addition to the 35 hectares of sports fields, Ayala Polo Club has 65 hectares of green land that accommodate multiple activities during the summer. The fields and other facilities of the Ayala Polo Club are considered by some to be the best in the world.
Nine tournaments are held at the Ayala Polo Club, spread over five months from May to September (Welcome Cup, KE Sotogrande Cup, Joseph McMicking Cup, Spanish Open, Manuel Prado Memorial and Colón de Carvajal…).
The International Polo Tournament is the most important highlight
Now, the most important event is the Sotogrande International Polo Tournament. The best polo players in the world come to try to win the coveted Bronze Cup, the Terralpa Silver Cup and the Gold Cup (three of the most important prizes in this sport).
The International Polo Tournament is a first-rate social event that goes beyond sport. It includes gastronomy (with a gourmet area), fashion stalls, live music concerts and everything to enjoy a unique atmosphere.
By the way, highlights in the club include the excellent Cancha II restaurant, one of the best places to enjoy an authentic Argentinian “asado” or exquisite signature cuisine.
Of course, the Ayala Polo Club has inherited Santa María’s commitment to the “Sport of Kings”, well beyond the tournament season. The club is actively involved in promoting polo development initiatives, with youth programs and training sessions.
Compared to the previous two, Polo Valley is a newly established polo club. It was founded by Christian Byrne in 2015. However, it has managed to become a club of global importance due to the high quality of its facilities. Polo Valley gives special importance to initiation and training in the practice of polo.
Polo Valley is located further north and inland from Sotogrande. Following the course of the Guadiaro River, about 10 minutes by car from the Ayala Polo Club, we find Polo Valley, in a wonderful environment surrounded by mountains.
Located on a 40-hectare estate, Polo Valley has 3 polo fields and more than 150 stables. Its facilities are a true delight for the senses: dotted with palm trees, with well-kept grounds and impressive views of the mountains. Polo Valley also has a lake, clubhouse, accommodations and events area.
The passion for polo was awakened in the founder, Christian Byrne, when he was a child, during stays with his family in Sotogrande. That hobby grew to become a life project. However, Byrne was aware of the difficulties involved in opening a polo club. So, he traveled to Argentina to train in depth in the world of polo and returned with his own and original idea about the type of club he wanted to open in Sotogrande.
A unique inmersive polo experience
His proposal consists of a comprehensive and immersive experience, with the sport of polo as the center, but offering “something more.” Indeed, Polo Valley has accommodations that allow its visitors a true retreat. Its complete training program for all levels adapts to any need. In fact, it is considered one of the best in the world.
An example of a specialized program is the Polo Challenge, an exclusive two-week experience for 6 people, once a year. The Polo Challenge offers the opportunity to absolute beginners to learn the sport and master the skills necessary to become a polo player.
But in addition, the club complements the practice of polo with an extensive program of activities around the concept of “wellness”: yoga, meditation, spa, horseback riding excursions through the spectacular surroundings, culinary practices with local organically grown products… This way polo becomes the center of a total experience for body and mind.
Polo Valley has also emerged as an excellent event center, in an idyllic, quiet and discreet location. In this respect, its wedding planning program stands out.
Iridike Polo Club
As if the 3 impressive polo clubs in Sotogrande already mentioned were not enough, the location completes its offer with 2 more. Iridike Polo Club specializes in low handicap polo. Teaching the sport and organizing “polo holidays” stand out as its main activities.
Iridike Polo Club is located a little further inland, about 25 minutes by car from Sotogrande. It is next to a spectacular mountainous area that extends to the Los Alcornocales natural park.
Iridike Polo Club is the creation of Luciano Irazábal and his wife, Marina. Iridike’s name comes from the name of a horse owned by Marina. The project began with a polo school, but due to the growing demand for polo facilities, the business expanded. The Irazábals acquired a 40-hectare country estate to house not only the courts, but also to create a vacation resort.
Currently Iridike Polo Club is divided into two facilities:
FINCA TRES ROSAS
It offers a polo field of 20 boxes and everything necessary for teaching polo: a sand riding arena, beaching tracks, etc. It is here that we find the 3 independent villas where visitors stay for their holidays at the club.
PUENTE DE HIERRO CLUB
The Puente de Hierro club, for low handicap competitions, offers 3 polo fields and more than 80 boxes. During the season from May to August, the club organizes 2 tournaments per week. And in August, the 4 Iridike Polo Puente de Hierro cups are played.
Dos Lunas Polo Club
Las but no least among polo clubs in Sotogrande: The Dos Lunas polo club is located closer to Sotogrande Marina, about 15 minutes drive. Its surroundings are truly idyllic: a beautiful valley surrounded by 92 hectares of mountains and with a pleasant microclimate. It is the perfect place to enjoy horseback riding.
Dos Lunas is a club specialized in dressage and polo. Its main activity is the preparation of highly competitive horses, but tournaments and teaching are also perfectly organized.
It has 2 professional polo fields and 2 all-weather training courts that are the largest in Europe. The advanced technology incorporated in the latter allows the computer regulation of humidity level and texture of the soil. This way, dust is eliminated in summer and puddles in winter. The club also has 2 grass tacking courts and an all-weather work court.
All in all, the club has the capacity to accommodate 3 polo teams with 50 horses each. In fact, it rents the facilities up to this maximum number of teams during the Easter and summer seasons.
And when it comes to accommodation, few competitors can compare with Dos Lunas polo club. Indeed, the complex has a 5-star hotel so that guests can stay in complete comfort.
Polo clubs in Sotogrande have choices for all polo fans
It seems clear that Sotogrande is a true paradise for polo fans. For both visitors and residents in Sotogrande, the polo clubs in Sotogrande offer an option that, added to others (such as golf, sailing sports or hiking) create an excellent offer of elite outdoor sports.
One of the great attractions for all those who plan to buy a house in Sotogrande is the possibility to enjoy sports in an idyllic natural environment, with sea and mountains, and a privileged climate.
If you wish to buy a house in Marbella, Estepona, Benahavis or Sotogrande, a short drive from all these magnificent polo clubs, our real estate agency Libehomes is specialized in villas, chalets and country estates in Sotogrande, Estepona, Benahavis and Marbella.
Do not hesitate to contact us at +34 951 386 117 / LH@Libehomes.com2nd Jan, 2024 by Manolo Alarcon