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Curling Game Basics:

What is this game of rocks and brooms all about?  Curling is a sport in which two teams of four players each slide 44-pound (22-kilogram) granite rocks (also called stones) down a sheet of ice toward a target, or house, at the other end.  Each team tries to get more of its stones closer to the center of the house than the other team.  Read on for a complete breakdown of curling’s basic elements.

Throwing rocks (Delivery):

  1. Each player on the team throws two stones in each end.  Each team throws 8 stones in an end.  
  2. The players throws two stones per end, alternating with the player on the other team who plays the same position.
  3. Each stone must cross the far hog line, the thick line across the sheet in front of each house, except when it has hit another stone in play.
  4. A stone that completely crosses the back line or touches the side line is removed from play.
  5. Right-handed players deliver from a “starting block” called the hack to the left of the center line.  Vice versa for left-handed players.
  6. A stone must be released before it reaches the hog line.
  7. A stone that has not been released from the player’s hand may be returned to the hack and re-delivered as long as has not reached the tee-line, the line across the middle of the house.
  8. When delivering a stone, the player should slide toward the skip’s broom. 


Curling rocks:  

  1. When a rock travels down the ice, depending on its rotation -- which is applied intentionally -- it will curl, or bend, one way or another.  
  2. How much (or little) a rock curls or bends, depends largely on the conditions of the playing surface.
  3. A clockwise rotation (known as an In-turn to a right-handed player) will cause the stone to curl left to right as it travels down the sheet.
  4. A counter-clockwise rotation (known as an Out-turn to a right-handed player) will cause the stone to curl right to left as it travels down the sheet.
  5. The terms “no handle” or “lost handle” refers to a stone sliding without rotation.



  1. Sweeping affects how much a rock curls and causes it to travel farther.  
  2. The lead, second, and third all take turns sweeping the rocks.  
  3. The skip, who is like the team’s quarterback, is the only one who doesn’t regularly sweep stones. 
  4. Sweeping will not make a stone travel faster, but can help it slide an additional 15 feet.
  5. For further information, see Sweeping Rules. 


Keeping score:

  1. Once all 16 rocks have been thrown down the sheet of ice, the score for that end is counted based on the final positions of the stones in the house.
  2. Only one team can score in an end.  A team scores one point for every consecutive rock that it has closer to the center of the house than their opponent.
  3. The thirds or vice-skips should agree on the score before removing stones.  All other team members should wait outside the house, on the far side of the hog line.
  4. Any measurements required should be conducted by the vice-skips.
  5. The 3rd or vice-skip is responsible for posting the score.
  6. The team that scores will go first in the next end.

Scoring Examples



Generally, the skip determines a rink’s strategy.  During the game, the skip stands at one end of the sheet and tells his or her other three players where they should place their shots.  A team’s strategy doesn’t always go according to plan!  And that’s part of what makes curling so much fun.  No two games are alike; the unpredictability is always appealing.  Curling is often called “chess on ice.”


Members of a Curling Team

The team you play on is called a rink. The rink is made up of four players listed below:






Curling Terminology

Curling, probably more than any other sport, has its own unique terminology (like hurry hard and burning a rock, among others). Here are the key curling words and phrases you need to know to blend in at your next bonspiel: 


Sweeping Technique: 

  1. Always face your skip so that you can see stones in front of you.
  2. Normally two sweepers will sweep each stone, but it possible for all four team members to sweep a stone.
  3. You can always sweep your own stone, with one exception – only one person can sweep a stone behind the tee-line.
  4. An opposing skip may also sweep an opponent’s stone behind the tee line.
  5. It is the responsibility of the sweepers to announce if they have touched the stone (called burning the stone). The stone will be removed from play.
  6. The sweeping motion should not leave any debris in front of a moving stone.
  7. The final sweeping motion should finish outside the path of the stone.
  8. There must be brush head movement in the sweeping motion – sliding the broom in front of the stone is not permitted.


 Basic Shot types:


 Free Guard Zone Rules / Other zones: 

  1. The Free Guard Zone (FGZ) is the area from hog-line to tee-line (not including the house). See the shaded area in the diagram to the right.
  2. Until the first 5 stones have been delivered (3 by the team without the hammer and 2 by the team with the hammer), stones in the FGZ may not be removed by an opponent.
  3. If they are removed, the stone is replaced and the opponent’s stone taken out of play.
  4. Often times you may hear sweepers call out a number. This refers to the zone (1-11) they anticipate the stone to stop.  This is a communication tool used to let the skip know the weight of the stone.



Sportsmanship and Conduct 

  1. Curling has its rules to govern play, but equally important is the way you conduct yourself while curling – sportsmanship, etiquette and honoring tradition.
  2. Curlers play to win, but never to humble their opponent.
  3. A curler should never attempt to distract an opponent or otherwise prevent someone from playing their best.
  4. No curler deliberately breaks a rule of the game or any of its traditions.
  5. If a curler inadvertently breaks a rule, he or she should immediately divulge the breach.


Pregame Process (Etiquette):

  1. Recommended apparel:
    1. Clean, Rubber-soled shoes.  A pair of shoes dedicated to curling is recommended so that debris is not transferred to the ice.  The shoes you wear for curling should only be used for curling, and can be left at the club.
    2. Layers of clothing.  Light-weight jacket or sweater.
    3. Gloves, if desired.
    4. Again, clean shoes…..Sand and especially salt can ruin the ice surface.
  2. It is extremely important to be ready to go on the ice prior to your scheduled game.  Remember, seven others are waiting on you.  You should arrive at the club about 15 minutes before your draw time so you are ready to go on the ice at the draw time.
  3. Remember to stretch.
  4. If you are going to be late, please let your skip know.  If you are late, you may begin sweeping immediately, but must wait until the end in progress is completed before you can throw stones.
  5. Ensure you have all the equipment you need (slider, stabilizer, broom) prior to game time.
  6. Practice is permitted before games; however do not throw stones on the sheet your game will be played on.
  7. The vice skips are responsible for the coin-flip to start the game.
  8. All players shake hands with their team members and each opponent before and after the game. It is customary to say “Good Curling” while doing this, and introduce yourself if you don’t know the other curler.


In-game Etiquette:

  1. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the ice clean. Please pick up any debris that you might find (lint, hair, dirt, etc.).  However it is unlawful to remove any foreign object from beneath a moving stone or from one that has come to rest.
  2. If debris is under a stone, please wait until the end is finished to remove it.
  3. No food or beverages are permitted on the ice, except water in closed containers.
  4. No one should deliberately delay the game.
  5. Do not walk in front of opponents or make distracting movements when they are in the hack preparing to throw or while they are watching their delivered stone.
  6. Do not move or talk while anyone else is delivering their stone.
  7. Avoid standing behind the hack unless it is your turn to throw.
  8. Sweepers should stand off to the side of the sheet, between the hog lines.
  9. If a sweeper touches a moving stone (burns the stone), they should immediately announce it.
  10. If you have personally moved a stationary stone, immediately notify both skips so that it may be replaced to the satisfaction of the opposing skip.
  11. The term “ice” is similar to “fore” in golf and means that you are blocking the path of a stone or view of a curler. Please move to the side immediately.
  12. Get into the hack as soon as your opponent has delivered their stone.
  13. The lead should get the skip’s stone ready for play by placing it at the hack.
  14. The skip should let the other three team members know the strategy prior to delivering the stones.
  15. Skips should stress to their team constant instruction throughout the season, including points of ice etiquette.
  16. Skips and thirds should keep their brooms behind them while their opponents are throwing.
  17. Only the skip of the team throwing their stone should be in the house. The opposing skip should stand behind the back line.
  18. The vice-skip is responsible for scoring and measuring stones. All other players must stay out of the house. Once the score has been decided, others should help clear the stones.  The person delivering the first stone of the next end should be preparing to throw their stone, not helping to clear stones.
  19. Although some clubs consider it proper etiquette, at MCC we do not practice the habit of getting the opponent’s stone ready for play.
  20. One of curling’s traditions is to compliment an opponent’s good shot, while at the same time, withholding any comments on a poor shot or competitor’s misfortune.


Post-game Etiquette / Tradition:

  1. All players shake hands with your team members and each opponent after the game. It is customary to say, “Good Game” or “Good Curling” afterwards.
  2. The losing team is responsible for cleaning the sheet and putting the rocks back; although it is customary for the winning team to assist as well.
  3. Behind each sheet in the lounge is a table. It is customary to sit down and chat and share a drink with your team members and opponents after a game. 


Fun Facts about Curling from USCA:

  1. It is generally agreed that curling was developed in Scotland in the 16th century on frozen marshes.
  2. Curling was first an Olympic medal sport in 1924, but did not obtain full medal status again until 1998.
  3. Curling is played in 48 countries worldwide. Canada leads the way with around 1 million active curlers.
  4. The modern curling stone is made of granite and weighs about 42 pounds.
  5. The first known US curling clubs were located in New York City, Detroit, Milwaukee and Portage, WI.
  6. On average, an athlete can walk up to 2 miles in an 8-end game.
  7. Membership in the US was 16,000 in 2013 with 165 member clubs in 40 states.
  8. No longer a cold-weather-only sport, new clubs are now found in warmer states such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee (started by our own Larry Unterberger) and Texas.


Additional information and reference material:

  1. Wisconsin Curling Association:
  2. United States Curling Association:
  3. Team USA Learn To Curl Reference Guide:
  4. Canada Curling:
  5. Curling Basics (animated shots):
  6. Try Curling:
  7. A few videos:
  8. Funny Basics:
  9. General Information:
  10. General Information:
  11. Curling physics (filmed at the Milwaukee Curling Club):



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