Intro to Curling

Curling is an extraordinary sport in that it is self-regulating (no umpires or referees dictate the game); it is a game of finesse and strategy not restricted by gender, age, or physical strength. Curling is enjoyed by curlers around the globe for recreation and in competition.

The Players // Curling Jargon // Equipment // Safety // Strategy

Curling is a team sport played by two teams of four players who slide polished and shaped granite stones down on a rectangular sheet of ice into a house (target). Each team throws eight stones in an “end,” the game segment similar to a baseball’s inning. Points are scored by the team closest to the center of the house, one point for each stone of the team’s rocks lying closer to the button than the opponent’s stone/s.

The name “curling” refers to the path of the stone which will travel to the left or right (six inches to six feet) depending upon the stone’s handle delivery being an in-turn or an out-turn and the conditions of the playing (ice) surface.

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 (lakes). 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 formal 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 standardization of the stone, the development of the slide delivery, and the use of indoor, refrigerated ice facilities.

Men’s curling was included in the Olympic program in 1924 at the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. It was then dropped, and later re-introduced as a demonstration sport in 1932 in Lake Placid. Between 1936 and 1992, curling was staged at the Games as a demonstration sport: in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 and Innsbruck in 1964 under the German name of “Eisschiessen;” and in 1988 in Calgary and in 1992 in Albertville, with both men’s and women’s events.

It was in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 that curling officially joined the Olympic games as a medal sport with both men’s and women’s competitions.

In curling, the team, or rink, is made up of four curlers (players): the lead, the second, the third (also called the vice-skip), and the skip. Each player has specific skills and duties.
• Lead: The lead throws the first two rocks of the end and then sweeps the next six. The lead must be very good at throwing guards and be a strong sweeper.
• Second: The second throws the third and fourth stones of the end and should be strong at playing takeouts. The second sweeps the first two stones and then the final four of the end. The second and the lead need to be in sync when sweeping together.
• Third: The third (or vice-skip), who throws the fifth and sixth rocks of the end, must be good at all shots, but especially draws. It is the third’s job to set up the shots that will be thrown by the skip and to help the skip discuss the strategy of the final two stones of the end. The third also determines and posts the score at the conclusion of the end.
• Skip: The skip is the captain of the team and directs the strategy. It’s the skip’s job to tell the other players where to throw their shots and when to sweep. The skip delivers the last two shots of the end. The skip must be knowledgeable about game theory and good at all types of shots.

Curling, like many sports, has its own unique terminology. Here are common curling words and phrases.

Blank end: An end where no points are scored.
Bonspiel: The name for a curling tournament competition.
Burning a rock: A rules infraction when a player touches a stone that is in motion.
Button: The very center of the house (the target).
Cashspiel: A tournament in which curlers compete for money.
Draw: A curling stone that is thrown / delivered into the house.
Delivery: The throwing a stone to the other end of the playing surface.
Eight-ender: A perfect end wherein every rock of the team’s stones scores a point.
End: The increment of each game, similar to an inning in a baseball game. A curling game has either eight or ten ends.
Guard: A curling stone that covers or blocks another.
Gripper: The textured sole of one of curling shoes that aids to stable footing on the ice.
Hammer: The last stone delivered in the end.
Hack: The embedded foot start in the ice to push off from when the stone is delivered.
Hogline: The line before which the stone must be released by the player.
House: The three-ringed target at each end of the sheet of ice. It consists of a set of concentric circles called the 12-foot, 8-foot, 4-foot, and the Button.
Rock: Also known as the stone, the granite playing piece that a curler delivers.
Sheet: The rectangular frozen ice surface on which the game is played.
Slider: The smooth sole of one of the curling shoes upon which to slide along the ice.
Takeout: A curling stone that removes other stones.
Tee line: The line on the playing surface that runs through the middle of the house.
Weight: The amount of force used to deliver a stone.

Minimal equipment is required to begin curling. Unlike days of yore when curlers had their own set of two stones, in the majority of curling clubs, the 42-pound, granite playing stones are now owned and provided by the club. The curler brings a pair of flat-bottomed shoes; these can be specific curling shoes or sports shoes that have soles that are clean and provide stability while on the ice. While delivering the stone, the curler may use a “slider,” a piece of Teflon attached to wide elastic band that slips over one of the shoes. Most curlers own their own brooms, clubs usually have extra brooms for novices or group rentals. Attire should be warm, loose-fitting sportswear including hats and gloves.

Curling is played on ice. Ice can be slippery, hard, cold, and wet.
• To enjoy the game without injury, be sure to “warm up” before each game by stretching leg, arm, and back muscles.
• Always be careful when stepping on to or off the ice.
• Never stop a rock with your hand or foot. You could lose your balance and fall. Use your broom to stop a rock. Be mindful of moving and stationary rocks and prevent rocks from going onto another sheet.
• Keep the rocks on the ice at all times; slide the rocks —never lift them.
• If you can’t keep up with a fast-moving rock while sweeping, just let it go. It’s not worth the risk of falling and your sweeping would probably be ineffective.
• Illness and alcohol can affect your balance and the effects will be much more noticeable on the slippery ice. You should avoid playing if your balance is impaired in any way.

Ice Halo head safety gear

The object of the game of curling is to score more points than the opposing team. A game begins with introductions, handshakes, and good wishes between all members of both teams. This spirit of camaraderie between opposing teams prevails throughout the game.
Players deliver (slide) stones from one end of the sheet of ice to the other into the house (the 12-foot target) in a fashion directed by the Skip. Each player delivers two stones in the order of their team position. After all sixteen stones have been played, the score is determined. One point is scored for each rock closest to the center of the house without an opponent’s rock being closer. In each end (similar to an inning in baseball), only one team can score. Club league games are typically eight ends in length, about two hours.
At the conclusion of the game, teams again exchange handshakes, condolences to the losers, and congratulations to the winners.

Like the game of chess, there are multiple opinions on winning curling strategies. Experienced team Skips will determine the course of play considering the strengths of both their teammates and their opposition, the condition of the ice, and the particular situation each end’s rocks present.

Curl Tech: The Curling Manual (Strategy)