Polo has always been an illustrious sport and now, with waves of new wealth sweeping across China, the country has seen a proper uprising of the sport on their own turf. The inaugural Goldin Gold Cup polo match on Saturday, July 2 brought crowd of colorful hats, high fashion, and China’s nouveau riche to a well-manicured field in Northeast China in the outskirts of Tianjin, a city that is home to over 12 million people.
According to CNN, polo clubs have existed in China since 2004 but the latest operation in Tianjin is the most opulent of the new clubs. As golf is on its way to being phased out as a status sport for wealth, polo and equestrian events are making their way up the ladder as the newest, most exclusive events for the country’s immensely wealthy. Harvey Lee, vice chairman of Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, explains, “Playing golf, no one else sees you. In China for now a lot of people will enjoy watching polo, not many will ride and play.”
Currently, as the sport is still catching on, the club is looking for patrons and member who can afford to buy a team and keep their horses at the club’s stables. While the club declined to say how much membership costs or how many member they currently have, the average club horse from breeders in Australia and New Zealand cost roughly $20,000 each and 24 to 30 horses are needed for a polo match. David Woodd, chief executive of the Hurlingham Polo Club in England says, “If you want to start polo in China you need to write a huge check.”
The club is just one indication of China’s draw to European-style luxury. Although a polo-like game was played over a thousand years ago during the Tang dynasty, the new club’s stables can accommodate up to 150 horses while the 167-room hotel section has 14 restaurants – one which serves up molecular gastronomy on gold plates – while a wine museum is gratuitously gilded in gold. European-style villas and luxury apartments are also in the process of being built behind the main polo field.
About 20 more clubs from other developers are in the works for China, including one slated to open later this year. Located just outside of Shanghai, it is unabashedly targeting the super-wealthy with an invitation for membership going out to an exclusive 200 people – and that membership will cost each person around $185,000 excluding their yearly subscription. “[They are] mainly business leaders and the social elite,” comented Heather Gu, business development manager for Shanghai Premier Club. “They know how to enjoy life and are looking for something fresh, noble and elegant. A horse can help create this.”