Polo tips from Torquhil Ian Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll

A guide to the ancient game of kings from Torquhil Ian Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll, ahead of the Royal Salute UAE Nations Cup in Dubai this week.
William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at a charity polo match in California. Reed Saxon / AP Photo
William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, at a charity polo match in California. Reed Saxon / AP Photo

The international jet set will be flying to the UAE to mingle at the much-anticipated Royal Salute UAE Nations Cup, a week-long event starting tomorrow at the Desert Palm Polo Club. From divots to dress codes, with a little bit of Downton Abbey, here’s a guide to the ancient game of kings from Torquhil Ian Campbell, the 13th Duke of Argyll.

How is the tournament different this year?

One big thing is that we’re bringing along one of the Royal Salute world polo ambassadors, Malcolm Borwick, to Dubai. He’s a six-goal player and plays for the English team. He’ll be on hand to give a polo clinic to VIPs, sharing his passion for the game.

What are your top tips for those attending the polo for first time?

For people who have never been, it’s a must-tick on their list of things to do. You get to come to an extraordinary place at Desert Palm with wonderful views of the pitch and a great clubhouse. Expect to see polo played at a very high level and enjoy a very social event. In general, it’s a great day out.

What’s your advice on polo etiquette?

Just behave well. [Laughs] At the end of the day it’s a sport and it’s entertainment; people should come along and enjoy themselves. It’s also quite a fashionable event to come to and people tend to make an effort. It’s not a shorts and T-shirt event, it’s a very smart day out.

Do you have a go-to polo outfit?

I usually wear white jeans or something similar and a very smart Royal Salute jacket designed by Patrick Grant of Norton & Sons, Savile Row, London. It’s navy blue with white button holes.

How is business at your family seat, Inveraray castle in Scotland?

Tourism last year was amazing. We’ve had the best year certainly in my time, but probably the past 20 years. Despite global recession we welcomed a huge amount of tourists to Scotland and probably did quite well off the back of Downton Abbey. (The castle featured in the hit series’ 2012 Christmas special).

Will any more episodes of Downton Abbey be filmed at the castle?

We did it on the basis of it probably being a one-off and you can’t keep running the same storyline. So probably not, would be the honest response. But on the back of the popularity of Downton Abbey, especially in the US, we did two documentaries, one for PBS and one for ABC.

Are rumours of your castle having a ghost true, and have you seen it?

We actually have five ghosts, one was just not good enough! Sometimes if I’m there on my own I might feel a little strange, but I’ve never seen them. We have a young boy who was a harpist and he was murdered in one of the beds we have in the castle, back in 1644. Occasionally people hear harp music being played from the room. We also have a piper and he plays on a balcony in one of our libraries. We have a raucous laundry maid and we have also got what are classified as “grey ladies”, which people do see on a much more regular basis. Apparently they’re all very happy.

Entry to the Royal Salute UAE Nations Cup, which runs from Monday to Friday, is free on a first-come, first-served basis. Entry to the Partner’s VIP Terrace is by invitation only. For more information, call 04 323 8888 or visit desertpalm.peraquum.com

For information on trips to Inveraray castle, visit www.inveraray-castle.com


• They are not horses, but ponies

• Manes are often shaved and their tails wrapped for safety

• Ponies are “rested” and changed frequently during one game

• Polo is commonly played on grass, but also sand and snow

• A game lasts for about two hours and is divided into chukkas

• Teams of four players change ends every time a goal is scored

• The public is encouraged to replace divots at half-time

• Polo is believed to have first been played in Iran around 6th century BC

Dress the part


• Dress trousers, white jeans, semi-formal slacks in light or primary colours

• Collared dress shirts with barrel cuffs

• Lounge suits, blazers, linen jackets

• Brogues, loafers, driving shoes

• Sunglasses

Optional extras:

• Panama hats, colourful pocket squares, silk cravats, ties, binoculars

• Retail radar: Head to Ralph Lauren’s regional boutiques to see a broad selection of the classic Oxford button-down shirts in pastel shades from Dh550, www.thedubaimall.com

• Check out this season’s range of suede driving shoes at Tod’s from Dh1,530, www.tods.com


• Summer maxis, cocktail dresses, skirts to the knee

• Bold prints, bright colours or crisp white

• Wide-brimmed summer hats, fascinators, hair ­accessories

• Small shoulder bags, clutches

• Sunglasses

Optional extras:

• Pashminas, parasols, plastic heel protectors

Retail radar: Stilettos and turf aren’t friends and Desert Palm’s grounds are extensive, so opt for peep-toe nude wedge slingbacks by Jimmy Choo for Dh1,728 or splurge on Valentino’s studded metallic sandals for Dh3,012 at www.net-a-porter.com

• See the new spring/summer range of short and long dresses now in Carolina Herrera’s UAE stores. www.carolinaherrera.com


Published: January 25, 2014 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one