Learn 2 Curl
Find out how the pros do it
Curling is a team sport played by two teams of four players on a rectangular sheet of ice. One of the world’s oldest team sports, curling originated in the 16th century in Scotland, where games were played during winter on frozen ponds and lochs. The earliest-known curling stones came from the Scottish regions of Stirling and Perth and date from 1511. In the 1600s, stones with handles were introduced.
The first curling clubs appeared in Scotland, with the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, formed in 1838, being responsible for formulating the first official rules of the sport. The Club was renamed the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1843. The key 20th-century developments in the sport have been the standardisation of the stone, the development of the slide delivery, and the use of indoor, refrigerated ice facilities.
Curling is one of the few challenging and fun sports where all ages, genders and abilities can play on a competitive level. Two teams alternate turns delivering stones down a sheet of ice trying to get theirs the closest to the center of a target known as the “house.” Each team consists of four players called the lead, second, vice, and skip each delivering two stones in that order. The skips act as the captain of the team directing all shots. The vice is the acting assistant to the skip.
Curling is played on a “sheet” of ice approximately 150 feet in length and 15 feet 7 inches in width. At either end of the sheet is a target consisting of three rings generally colored blue, white and red from the inside out. The center circle inside of the blue ring is called button. The button is one foot in diameter while each ring is two feet wide.
Behind each house are “hacks” which are placed on the sheet to give the player delivering the stone a solid surface to push off of. The first line the player delivering a stone will cross sits six feet in front of the hack, is named the “back line,” and sits tangent to the back of the house. The back line is the furthest point on the sheet that a stone can sit and still be in play. The next line is the “tee line” which bisects the house and is located twelve feet in front of the hack. The third and final line they will cross is the “hog line” which sits 33 feet in front of the hack. There is 72 feet in the center of the sheet before the other side’s hog line is placed with the same distance going further for the tee line, back line and the hack. There is one line that runs the entire length of the sheet from hack to hack named the “center line.”
When players deliver stones, they need to release it before it crosses the first hog line and it needs to completely pass the second hog line to be considered in play. If it does not completely cross it, the stone is considered “burned” and is removed from the sheet. The area between the furthest hog line and the beginning of the house or “top of the house” is known as the free guard zone. The two stones that each lead delivers are generally guards and while in the free guard zone, they cannot be taken out by the opponent. If they are, the original stone is replaced to the location it was before it was hit. Any stone that rests in (or touching) the house that are delivered by the two leads are considered to be fair game for the opponent to attempt a “take out” and remove them from the house.
The ice is prepared before each game by pebbling it with small droplets of water. The pebbling creates small bumps or texture on the ice. This allows the stones to glide across the ice further than it would if there was no pebbling on it.
There are only a few pieces of equipment used in curling which makes the barrier of entry relatively low for new players joining a club. Most clubs like ours supply that equipment for new players so you can start playing immediately without a monetary purchase early on.
Stones / Rocks
Curling stones are made from granite and weigh approximately 42 lbs. each. There is a handle located on the top of each stone which allows the player to grip it as well as rotate it while delivering it to the other end. This rotation allows the stone to “curl” once it begins to slow down. The bottom of each stone is concave leaving a pocket of air between it and the ice with the exception of a slim ring approximately ¼ inch in thickness. The stones are provided at all curling clubs due to the cost of them ($300-$500 each).
Curlers will use brushes to “sweep” in front of the stone as their team delivers it towards the opposite house. The act of sweeping slightly melts the ice and helps the stone travel further down the ice with less curl to it. Brushes are also generally provide by most clubs for new players.
The delivery stick allows stones to be delivered from a standing position, a wheelchair or anyone with mobility issues. Most clubs will have at least one if not multiples for players to use.
The majority or professional curlers will use their brooms in their non-dominate hand for stability while delivering stones. For new players that might not be comfortable or offer enough. Most clubs will have stabilizers for players to use. These can take the form of a heavy plastic or wood.
Curlers can where normal shoes but perhaps the best purchase an aspiring curler can purchase on their own is a pair of curling shoes. These shoes have one sole with a thick Teflon pad on it which allows the player to slide while delivering the stones. They also come with a gripper that will go over the Teflon pad while not delivering stones to give better grip while walking on the ice. Shoe are not generally provided by clubs but they will provide a slider that uses an elastic band that can be wrapped around your shoe or simple step on sliders to offer a similar experience while delivering. It is close, but not the same.
Scoring in curling often seems much harder than it actually is. Below we will give some examples on both how to calculate the score as well as marking it on a curling scoreboard.
Scoring in the house
Once both teams have delivered their eight stones each, that “end” is complete. Think of an “end” as an “inning” in baseball. The vices of both teams will tally scores for that end. One point is scored for the team with their stone closest to the center of the house which is also known as the “button.” The team who wins the end is also awarded one point for each of their stones that are resting in (or touching) the house that are also closer than their opponents closest stone to the button. The points awarded do not change based on what ring it is in our touching. The rings are there only to help judge placement. Below are a few examples of typical scoring situations curlers will see while playing.
High Profile Event Scoreboard (Olympics)
Now that you understand how to calculate scores, you need to mark them on the score board. When watching Olympic or other higher level events, the scoreboard will resemble that of other major sporting events like baseball. Here, each end shows how many points were scored and by what team. Those points are then totaled at the end.
In the example to the right, Yellow won the match 7-6. Although this is what you will generally see while watching on TV, it is not how curling traditionally scores a match. A couple things to take note of:
Ends are listed across the top like in baseball.
The hammer icon next to Red indicates that in the 7th end, Yellow scored so they will deliver first in the 8th end. Thus giving Red the hammer or last stone thrown in the 8th end.
A traditional curling scoreboard is shown above. Notice how the teams on the top and bottom of the board with points being listed down the center.
Unlike many sports we see commonly in the media, curling is a game of physical and mental skill as well as extremely high standards of sportsmanship. Although there are no officials on the ice during game play, it is left to the players to be honest at all times. Rarely will you ever see a player that does not call out their own infraction while playing as it would be unsportsmanlike which is highly frowned upon.
It is because of this sense of tradition that players can enjoy a great game and not have to worry a referee missing a call. For example, one of the most common infractions for new players is their broom touching the stone while sweeping. When this happen, the player who’s broom made contact should attempt to stop the stone before impacting any other stones, raise their hand and let both teams know they touched the stone. Preforming this simple action indicates to both teams that you are a trustworthy and honorable person. As a new curler, it will greatly increases their views of you as a person.
A second example of is when a player from either team makes a wonderful shot, express that to them by simply saying “great shot.” It is not difficult and although everyone wants to win, losing to a great shot is nothing to be ashamed about. Below are more examples of proper etiquette while curling:
Consideration of Others