How to Play Curling

Curling is a unique Olympic sport played by teams who slide granite rocks down the field. The rocks tend to curve or "curl" as play goes on, giving the sport its name. Curling first began in Northern Europe on frozen bodies of water. 2 teams of 4 different players move 45-pound granite rocks over a 130 by 15 inch ice sheet. The rocks are slid to the center of the field, with painted areas to show where the beginning and end are designated. Here is a quick explanation of how to play curling.

History of Curlin

Curling first started out 500 years ago on the frozen lochs of Scotland. Clan owners would actually play this game during the winter to while away the time, with competitors sliding stones toward empty jugs of whiskey. Typically, winning teams had to buy the losers drinks. While this sport was once unique to Canadian Scottish immigrants, it has taken off in the U.S., with there being more than 17,000 curlers in the U.S. alone.

How Curling is Played

Each game has 16 rocks. For each rock nearest the center of the field, the team will score a single point. Curling is not unlike baseball in terms of strategy, where only 1 team is able to score while a play is afoot. Sweeping is a unique part of curling; when players sweep, they brush the ice at a very fast pace to keep the rock going forward. This not only polishes the ice, but also helps to keep the rock going straight forward. The object of the game is to get each stone nearest the opposite team's button, or "goal."

While this sport is typically played indoors, curling is extremely popular in numerous countries including North America, Australia, Asia, and Canada. In 2002, curling really took off at the Olympic games in Utah. While curling is very easy to learn, it is a complex and intricate sport that takes a very careful touch. Additionally, you need good vocal cords and the ability to sweep -- which requires good muscle control.

The Field of Play

You will see what look like dart boards at each end of the field. The bull’s-eyes are the "buttons." The line that goes from one end of the sheet to the other is known as the centerline. Stones have to stop between 21 feet from the center of the house -- known as the "hog line" -- and the back line to stay within the field of play. There are ten innings, which are known as ends, in curling. The teams simply alternate throwing stones for each round. The object of the game is to have the most stones close to the button when the ends have all been completed.

Only stones within the house count as a point; so if the blue team has 2 stones that are nearer the button than the red team, blue will get 2 points. Only 1 team can score for each end, however, if neither team has stones in the house, then neither one will get any points -- and this is known as a "blank end." This is important in learning how to play curling.

Shot Types

In curling you will hear what are referred to as 3 different shot types. These include take outs, draws, and guards. Guards are what block the house and keep opponents' stones from getting in. Draws are intended to beat guards, to get the stone within the house. Draws are extremely intricate and interesting shots that have excellent curls on them, changing the very rules of physics as we know them. Take outs are skillful shots that will simply push other stones right out of the play field. Strategy is crucial in curling.

Curling Equipment and the Ice Field

Curling features brushes and brooms. The typical brush is called a push broom, which is used in most curling games. In Canada, players use the Canadian broom which has very long bristles and is similar to a normal broom you'd find in cleaning supplies. The ice is made artificially and has water droplets sprinkled over it -- which are then frozen into small bumps known as pebbles. This helps the stone to grip the ice. Special curling shoes are worn by the players that grip the ice firmly. The rocks themselves are made of polished granite taken from Alisa Craig in Scotland.

Player Types

While you watch the game in play, you'll see different types of players. The skip is the captain of the team and he or she generally throws last. This is because the last stones of each end are most critical in point determination. The skip will direct each team members' throws -- either for drawing or hitting. The skip yells commands to each sweeper to try to influence their curls and speed. The other members include the lead, who throws first, and the guard, who protects the button. The second and the third are the remaining team members.

While the lead throws, the second and the third sweep the ice while following the skip's instructions, and then the other team gets their chance to play. Then the first team will go, allowing the second to throw while the lead and the vice do the sweeping. Curling is an extremely intricate game that is fun, dynamic, and carefully dependent on the laws of physics as well as the skill of its players.

A Fun and Accessible Sport to All

So why might one try curling? If you are a fan of ice sports, you'll probably have some fun with curling. The great thing about this sport is that you can be any age to play -- and it is open to both genders. The rules are quite simple, and it is easy and inexpensive to begin play. Curling is great for your health, providing good exercise and fun, while also being wheelchair accessible.

Getting Started

Curling is constantly unpredictable; no 2 games will ever be the same. Your strategy may or may not turn out the way you plan. The skip has to plan out the team's strategy before play and make alterations as necessary as the game progresses. If you want to start learning how to play curling, grab some equipment at your local sporting goods store. Then select some team members; these can be your friends, family, or anyone else interested in the sport with you. Finally, put together your teams to participate in one of the most unique winter sports available!

Back to the guide list