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Curling Rules

What are the rules of curling? We'll explain scoring, winning, equipment, positions, strategy, and more. Get ready to learn the basics of how to play curling and the rules you should know.

The Rules of Curling

Curling is a sport where players throw 42 pounds stones down a 150 foot sheet of ice. Curling originated in Scotland, and came over to North America during European emigration to the United States. The sport has continued to spread across Europe, and is now becoming increasingly popular in Asia. With the addition of the Mixed Doubles format - in which one male and one female play on a team - there are a number of additional opportunities to further spread the culture of curling across the world.

Playing Surface

In curling, the playing surface is known as the sheet, as curlers play on a long sheet of ice. A curling sheet is 150 feet long and 14 feet, 2 inches wide. On both ends of the sheet, there is the house which contains four concentric circles called:

  1. The Button
  2. The 4 Foot
  3. The 8 Foot
  4. The 12 Foot

Curling Sheet

You will notice that the colors of the houses vary. This is to easily distinguish between the start and end areas of each of the circles. Running along the long sides of the sheet are the sidelines. If a stone reaches a sideline, it is out-of-play. Parallel to the sidelines, but in the middle of the sheet, it the centerline. In front of each house is a hog line. When a curler is shooting he must release the stone by the first closer hog line, and the stone must pass the second hog line completely to be in play. Directly behind the houses is the backline. After a stone fully crosses the backline, it is out-of-play.

The Objectives

The goal of the game is to score more points than your opponent by throwing your stones into a series of concentric circles, known as the house. In addition to throwing stones, two of the teammates will sweep the stone as it travels down the ice. In curling, each team is throwing stones into the house so that they can score points. The team that scores the most points after completing eight or ten ends will win the game. To successfully score points, teams will utilize various strategies depending on which team has the hammer and which end is being played.

Curling Shot Types

In curling, there are various types of shots that players can use throughout the game, each of which serve a different purpose. There are many more specific types of shots in curling, but these are five basic shots that are frequently used throughout a game of curling.

  1. Draw: a shot in that ends up in the house, but touches and interacts with no other stones while travelling down the ice.
  2. Guard: a shot that ends up in-between the hog line and the house and serves as a way to guard or protect a stone in the house.
  3. Takeout: a shot that removes at least one of your opponent's stones in the house.
  4. Freeze: a shot in which a stone is drawn just so that it is touching the edge of a stone in the house. The stone thrown should be closer to the button after the shot is executed.
  5. Peel: a takeout that removes at least one of your opponent's guards.

Curling Shot Types

Sweeping

Another element of the game that is so crucial to excellent shot-making is sweeping. You may be wondering why it is so important to sweep a stone in curling. By sweeping in front of the stone, you are making the stone travel straighter down the ice, and are reducing the rate at which the stone slows down. Vigorous sweeping can sometimes help a stone travel 12-15 feet further, which is between 8 and 10 percent farther that it would have travelled.

Curling Sweeping

In curling, the ice is textured, or pebbled, and is why curling stones can glide across the ice for such a long distance. There are 2 theories about what sweeping does to the ice:

  1. Sweeping melts the pebble on the ice.
  2. Sweeping polishes the pebble on the ice.

No matter which theory you believe, sweeping is a crucial part to the game of curling. Many shots that are executed throughout the game are so effective because they were properly swept.

Game Format and Duration

A game of curling is broken down into eight ends, in which the two teams alternate throwing each of their eight stones, for a total of 16 stones thrown per end. In more competitive play, ten ends will likely be played. Since the curling sheet is symmetric, teams will throw their stones towards one side of the sheet in an end, and then throw their stones towards the other side of the sheet in the next end. This cycle repeats until eight (or ten) ends have been played.

Curling Ends

In curling, there are two methods of timekeeping. The first method is the Predetermined Time Method. In this method of timekeeping, a predetermined amount of time is set on a clock, and counts down for the entire game. After time expires, teams will complete the end that they are currently playing and then end the game. The second timekeeping method is the Thinking Time Method. In this method of timekeeping, each team is allotted a certain amount of time in which they may figure out what type of shot to throw. The timer begins once their opponent's stone stops. The timer stops once the thrower begins to deliver the stone. If time expires on either team's clock, the game is over, and the team whose clock ran out of time will lose the game.

Curling Timekeeping

Halftime

In competitive play, there is a small break in between the fourth and fifth ends for eight end games, and in between the fifth and sixth ends for ten end games. This is known as the halftime break, and allows teams to discuss what went well and what they want to do for the second half of the game.

Curling Halftime

Curling Teams and Players

There are four positions on a curling team, each of which have different responsibilities. Note that each teammate will throw two rocks over the course of an end. The four positions are:

  1. Lead: throws the first and second stones and sweeps the remaining ones. The lead also executes the pre-game coinflip.
  2. Second: throws the third and fourth stones and sweeps the remaining ones.
  3. Vice, Vice-Skip, Third: sweeps the first four stones, throws the fifth and sixth stones, and acts as Skip while the Skip is shooting their stones.
  4. Skip: throws the seventh and eighth stones, acts as the strategist/leader for the entire game, and plans out the shots to be thrown over the course of each end.

Equipment

There are three main pieces of equipment you need to play a game of curling called stones, brooms, and hacks. A curling stone weighs 42 pounds and is made of an impact-resistant type of granite found in Ailsa Craig, a Scottish island that remarkably looks like a curling stone. To sweep the stones, curlers use brooms that are usually made of plastic or carbon fiber. The broomhead is made of a synthetic material, but few still use some sort of bristles. To deliver a stone, curlers use hacks, which act as footholds, and are frozen into the ice. Freezing the hacks into the ice ensures that they won't move when a curler is delivering a stone.

Curling Equipment

Violations

In curling, there are a few violations that curlers can commit during a game of curling.

  • Hog Line Violation: this involves a thrower releasing a stone after part of the stone has already crossed the hog line. If this occurs, the stone is immediately stopped and removed from play before it even reaches the hog line on the other side of the sheet.
  • Free Guard Rule Violation: this involves removing a guard from play before the first five stones of the end have been thrown. If this occurs, the guard that was in-play gets placed back where it was. The stone that hit the guard out-of-play is then removed from play.
  • Burning a Stone: this is when a player or piece of equipment touches a stone while it is in motion. If this occurs while the stone is travelling in between the hog lines, it is removed from play. If this occurs once the stone has crossed the far hog line, the opposing skip will determine where the stone should be placed, usually where it would most likely have ended up stopping.
  • Running out of Thinking Time: this is when a team using the Thinking Time Method runs out of time to think about their shots. If this occurs, the team will automatically lose the game.

Scoring and Winning

At the end of the game, the team with the larger number of points will win the game. Hence, there is no requisite number of points a team must score to win. Theoretically speaking, the score of a curling game could be 1-0, but the average team scores between six to eight points in a game. In order for a stone to be considered for scoring, it must be in the house. When scoring an end, look for the stone that is closest to the button called the shot rock. Whichever team has shot rock will score one point that end. Only one team can score points during each end. The team will also score an additional one point per stone that is closer the button than the opponent's shot rock. Therefore, if there are three stones closer to the button than an opponent's closest stone, the team will score three points for the end. If there are no stones in the house, a blank end occurs, and the team that had the hammer retains it. Otherwise, the team that does not score in the end will have the hammer for the following end.

Curling Rules Summary

  • A curling team consists of four players. The positions are called lead, second, vice, and skip.
  • A game consists of eight or ten ends, a time in which teams alternate throwing eight stones each, for a total of 16 stones thrown per end.
  • A curling sheet is between 144 and 150 feet in length, and 14 feet, two inches in width.
  • When a team is throwing a stone, it must be released before the first hog line a player reaches, and must fully cross the second hog line in order to be in-play.
  • If a stone is released after a portion of it has already passed the first hog line, the stone shall be immediately removed from play.
  • If a stone fully passes the backline or makes contact with one of the sidelines, it is out-of-play.
  • When a team is throwing a stone, any number of teammates may sweep the stone.
  • A single teammate may sweep an opponent's stone as it begins to cross the tee line.
  • If a teammate or object makes contact with a stone while in motion between the two hog lines, it is removed from play.
  • If a guard is removed before the first five stones of the end are thrown, the guard is placed back where it was, and the stone that forced the guard out-of-play is removed from play.
  • If a teammate or object makes contact with a stone while in motion after passing the second hog line, the opposing skip determines where the stone is placed.
  • Only one team can score in an end.
  • After the end has been completed, the team with the stone closest to the button will earn one point.
  • The scoring team will also earn one point for every stone closer to the button than the opponent's closest stone to the button.

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