A polo handicap is a passport to the world.
— Winston Churchill

A handicap is a comparative rating of polo playing skills bestowed by the USPA and expressed as goals that range on a scale from -2 to 10. A -2 handicap would be given to a beginner player, whereas a 10 handicap is reserved for the most skillful player. These ratings have nothing to do with the number of goals a player scores; rather, a variety of factors such as skill, horsemanship, strategy, knowledge of polo, team play, and sportsmanship. 

The team handicap is the sum of the players' handicaps. The team with the lower handicap is granted the difference in goals at the beginning of the match. Each tournament has a handicap range, and each participating team's handicap must fall within that range. 

HANDICAP BASICS

  • A handicap is the rating given to a player to indicate his or her skill relative to another player.
  • In the United States, handicaps range from -2 to 10.
  • Most players fall between -1 and 1. Common usage is to refer to a player’s handicap in terms of “goals.”
  • For example, “He is a 4-goal player,” means he has a handicap of 4.

For example, in an 8-10 goal tournament, no team may have a combined handicap of less than eight or more than ten. If two teams have different handicaps–for instance, the Blue team is eight goals and the Red team is nine–the lower rated team is awarded the difference in goals to begin the game. In this case, the Blue team would begin the game with one goal on the scoreboard.