The importance of knowing different types available.
A well-finished, balanced polo mallet is as important as a good field or a good horse. Choosing a good mallet is not easy; each polo player has a particular taste and feels comfortable with certain sticks, but a bad mallet can affect your game in a negative way. It is like comparing a sharp knife to a blunt one.
– It is important to know that a properly measured stick will provide good execution.
– A grip, or handle, measured to fit our hand influences our strike.
– A balanced cane eases the strike.
– The quality of the mallet head and certain types of wood favour contact and allow a smoother impact.
– The weight of the mallet head should intimately relate to the cane, to which it is attached.
– The length of the stick varies from player to player; it relates to the height of the horse and the physical aspects of the player.
– The angle of the mallet head to the cane allows the stick to rest perfectly on the ground, always maintaining the same distance with the ball during contact. Most importantly, every player – children, women, amateurs, patrons, professionals – should be able to develop their swing without hindrance; a seven year old child would not be able to accomplish their swing with the stick of a professional player.
– The placement of the mallet head at -3 minutes in relation to the grip favours direction. This positioning ensures that the mallet head is aligned with our hand (right side of the grip). We can then control the angle of the ball by opening or closing our arm, and therefore opening and closing the face of the mallet head.
– The stiffness or elasticity of the cane influences the timing of our strike. In this case there is a direct relationship with time spent stick and balling and practicing. A professional who plays and practices every day will have more timing than an amateur who only practices on weekends. A player with good timing will want his mallet to be where his hand indicates it to be, so he will use a stick with flexion which is low to the ground.
– A player who lacks timing will miss due to lowering the stick before they should and, as a result, will top the ball and cause it to bounce unevenly.
– If the player uses a stick with flexion higher up (slower mallet), the mallet head will take longer in following through, thus compensating for the player’s lack of timing.
* Do we know what makes a good mallet?
* Do we notice a difference when we play with a bad mallet or a good mallet?
* Do we need to know?
Let’s start with the handle and the sling, which form our grip. In this case we are looking for comfort and assurance. There are no variables of this type; they are all slightly triangular with rounded edges and come in four different measurements. Regarding the sling, it is a safety feature which provides support for the back of our hand and prevents the mallet from flying off. The length of the sling will relate to the size of the hand and depend whether the player uses gloves or not. Our grip or handle size will depend on the size of our hand: N°1 for small hands, women or children; N°3 is the standard grip size; and N°4 is for players with bigger hands. We can learn our grip size by placing our middle and index finger along the handle and see if there is any space left over or if the fingers go over the sides. The fingers of a hand taking the grip correctly should not touch the palm. Using the wrong grip deprives us from using our fingers in different strikes. For example, if we look at the index finger when we hit the ball we will see that keeping it in the form of pulling a trigger will ease and direct our strike. The material used for the grip is commonly rubber cut at a 45 degree angle for elasticity.
Type of cane
– Nowadays, the most common type of cane comes from Indonesia or Malasia.
– The section of the cane chosen for polo mallets goes from the root up to three meters in height.
– A good stick comes from the root at 55 inches; generally speaking, the rest is called splicing cane and is used for repairing broken mallets. Some use this process to make polo mallets, though it is not advisable.
– The cane is straightened by heating it with a gas flame and is placed in a hot oven to increase elasticity. Thus, when the mallet bends, due to a strike or a hook, it can return to its original straight form. This is scientifically proven, since all vegetable fiber has increased elasticity once treated with heat.
– The most commonly used cane is the Zega Batu, due to its resistance, balance and elasticity.
Type of mallet head
– We currently use a hardwood called ‘tipa’ which boasts correct weight, form, and good durability. Tipa from Salta, in Argentina, is a unique type of wood due to the impact of the strike, resistance, and its density, which lends to achieving the necessary weight for polo mallets.
*In collaboration with Eduardo Benavídez