Cowdray Park Polo Club – 100 years old and the ‘home’ of British polo
by Liz Higgins
Cowdray Park Polo Club was founded over a century ago in 1910 and is recognised worldwide as the home of British polo – the legacy of John Cowdray, 3rd Viscount, and son of the club’s founder.
John Cowdray is regarded as the godfather of British polo, having almost single-handedly revived it in the UK following the 2nd World War when the sport was virtually extinguished. Despite losing his left arm in the battle for Dunkirk in France,
John Cowdray continued to play with the aid of a prosthetic limb, and, by 1947, had tournaments up and running again at Cowdray Park generously loaning ponies to friends in order to make up teams. Three of his sisters also helped to make up the numbers and were some of the first women to play in mixed teams.
In 1949 Lord Cowdray took English players to play the Argentine Open, offering a return visit in 1951 for the first revival of the Coronation Cup since 1939. During the early 1950s spectators flocked to Cowdray to catch a glimpse of Princess Elizabeth and her dashing husband Prince Philip who played for Cowdray Park. In 1953 when Prince Philip formed his own polo club in Windsor Great Park, the Coronation Cup was given a new home encouraging John Cowdray to launch his own trophy, the Cowdray Park Gold Cup, in 1956. It was a huge success although the Cowdray Park side had to wait until 1958 for their first win.
During the Gold Cup’s history, Cowdray’s club members have watched the world’s greatest polo players in action, witnessing the first season of a 16 year old Adolfo Cambiaso, already playing off 7 goals, winning the Gold Cup with Tramontana in 1991, and twenty five seasons of the legendary Carlos Gracida during which time he won the Gold Cup ten times.
John Cowdray wanted as many young people as possible to have the chance to play. A great supporter of the Pony Club, in 1977 he offered a home for the Pony Club National Championships. The Finals are played on the world famous Cowdray ‘Lawns’ giving youngsters the privilege of playing on the same ground as the Gold Cup Final, sponsored since 1995 by Veuve Clicquot.
John Cowdray died in January 1995 leaving Cowdray Park a mecca for polo enthusiasts. The club plays more polo than any other in the UK with a full programme of domestic tournaments, six HPA tournaments, an international test match and four weeks of the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup for the British Open Championship - the trophy remains to this day the one that every player dreams of winning.
In 2011 the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup opens on 21st June. 18 teams have entered the 22 goal tournament and some 50 matches will take place during the series to decide the winners of the British Open Polo Championship. Quarter Finals take place on 9/10 July, Semi Finals on 14 July, and the Final, which attracts around 15,000 people, on 17th July.
Cowdray Park has 11 grounds spread over two complexes – Cowdray Lawns and
Ambersham. Lawns 1 and 2 are rated amongst the highest quality competition
grounds in the world. The River Ground adjoining the historic Cowdray Ruins is one
of the most scenically beautiful grounds in the world The whole Cowdray Estate is
located in the glorious setting of England’s South Downs National Park.
Location: Midhurst, West Sussex.
Cowdray Park Polo Club www.cowdraypolo.co.uk, tel: 01730 813257