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Curling in Scotland

Scotland is the home of curling. The game was probably invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrew, in February, 1541

Royal Caledonian Curling Club
Cairnie House
Avenue K
Ingliston Showground
EH28 8NB
Phone: +44 (0) 131 333 3003
Fax: +44 (0) 131 333 3323


The Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) is the mother club of the sport of curling, and the governing body of curling in Scotland. The RCCC was founded on 25 July 1838 in Edinburgh, and granted its royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1843, after she had witnessed a demonstration of the sport played on the polished ballroom floor of Scone Palace the previous year.
The body is based at the Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston, Edinburgh.

The objective of the RCCC is "To unite curlers throughout the world into one Brotherhood of the Rink", and today the Royal Club has branches and affiliated associations and clubs in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United States and Wales.

Curlers' Grace
World Curling Federation

Curlers' Grace

O’Lord wha’s love surrounds us a’,
And brings us a’ the gether,
Wha’ writes your laws upon oor hearts,
And bids us help each ither.
We bless Thee for Thy bounties great,
For meat and hame and gear,
We thank Thee, Lord, for snaw and ice,
But still we ask for mair.
Gi’e us a hert to dae whit’s richt,
Like curlers true and keen,
To be guid friends along life’s road,
And soop oor slide aye clean.
O Power abune whose bounty free,
Oor needs and wants suffices,
We render thanks for Barley Bree,
And meat that appetises.
Be Thou our Skip throughout life's game,
An' syne we're sure to win,
Tho' slow the shot and wide the aim,
We'll soop each ither in.

World Curling Federation
WCF Secretariat
74 Tay Street,
Perth PH2 8NN,
Tel: 44 1738 451 630
Fax: 44 1738 451 641

The World Curling Federation (WCF) is the world governing body for curling accreditation. It was formed out of the International Curling Federation (ICF), when the push for Olympic Winter Sport status was made.

The ICF comprising the associations of Scotland, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States, after the success of the Scotch Cup series of world championships held between Canada and Scotland. In the wake of its formation, it sanctioned the World Curling Championship.
The WCF currently sanctions the World Junior Curling Championship and the World Curling Championship (senior division) for men and women.

The World Curling Federation (WCF), the governing body for international curling, originated as a committee (formed in Perth, Scotland in March 1965) of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, and became an independent organisation in 1982. The WCF officially recognises the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, as the Mother Club of Curling. The WCF is still based in Perth, although for a brief period between 1994 and 2000 it too was based in Edinburgh with the mother club.


Curling, is a precision team sport similar to bowls or bocce, played on a rectangular sheet of prepared ice by two teams of four players each, using heavy polished granite stones which they slide down the ice towards an archery-like target called the house. Points are scored by the proximity of a team's rocks to the center of the target. The level of precision and complex nature of the strategic thinking required to win has led curling to be referred to as "chess on ice."

Photograph shows four curling 'sheets' in action at an indoor venue
Curling is a game played on ice with granite stones; in this picture, four curling sheets are shown

Origins and history Basics of the game Playing surface Players
Lead Second Third Skip
Fourth Team naming Equipment Shoes
Brooms (or brushes) Curling stone (or rock) Specialized equipment Game play
Throwing Delivering the rock Sweeping Types of shots
Free guard zone Last rock (or Hammer) Scoring Conceding a game
Dispute resolution Curling culture An amateur sport Good sportsmanship
Additional Information By the Numbers Terminology Trivia

Origins and history

The game was probably invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrew, in February, 1541. Two paintings (both dated 1565 by Pieter Brueghel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling (Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf).

The word curling first appears in print in 1620 in Perth, Scotland, in the preface and the verses of a poem by Henry Adamson. The game was (and still is, in Scotland) also known as "the roaring game" because of the sound the stones make while travelling over the pebble (droplets of water applied to the playing surface). The word derives from the Scots language verb curr which describes a low rumble (a cognate of the English language verb purr). The word does not take its name from the motion of the stones, which due to their deviation from a straight-line trajectory are said to curl.

Old photograph of curling match on afrozen lake

In the early history of curling, the rocks were simply flat-bottomed river stones which were sometimes notched or shaped; the thrower had little control over the rock, and relied more on luck than skill to win, unlike today's reliance on skill and strategy.

Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th centuries as the climate provided good ice conditions every winter.

Scotland is home to the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation, Perth, which originated as a committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the mother club of curling.

Today the game is most firmly established in Canada, having been taken there by Scottish emigrants. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the oldest active athletic club of any kind in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States began in 1832, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the nineteenth century, also by Scots. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and Korea.

The first world curling championship in the sport was limited to men and was known as the "Scotch Cup" held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959. The first ever world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan, skipped by Ernie Richardson.

Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. In February 2006, the International Olympic Committee retroactively decided that the curling competition from the 1924 Winter Olympic Games (originally called Semaine des Sports d'Hiver or International Winter Sports Week) would be considered official Olympic events and no longer be considered demonstration events. Thus, the first Olympic medals in curling, which at the time was played outside, were awarded for the 1924 Winter Games with the gold medal won by Great Britain and Ireland, two silver medals by Sweden and the bronze by France.

Basics of the game

Curling is played on a rectangular sheet of prepared ice into which two round, painted, archery-like targets (called the house) have been embedded. The game involves two teams of four players. These teams are called rinks and named for the team’s captain, who is known as the “skip”. Each team has eight polished granite stones, called stones or rocks, with which they try to score.

During each round of play, called an end, each player slides two stones along the surface of the ice. Play alternates between teams, each throwing one stone on their turn. The person throwing the stone influences where the stone stops by the amount of force used, called the weight, the spin (turn), and the direction of the throw. Additionally, the final position of the stone is changed by sweeping or brushing the path in front of the stone to reduce curl and increase distance. Once all the stones have been thrown during an end, the score is determined and the play reverses direction back to the other house.

The players are known as the lead, second, third and skip, and traditionally throw stones in that order . The skip acts as the team’s captain, determining the position played by each player, strategy during the game, holding the broom in the house as a target for the shooters, and representing the rink. However, there is nothing in the rules to say where in the order the skip plays and in recent years the skip has thrown second or third stones on some teams.

The basic goal of each end is to have your curling stones nearer to the center of the target once all the stones from both teams have been thrown for that end. Therefore, the maximum number of points a team can earn per end is eight, though this is extremely rare because only the closest stones belonging to one of the two teams are counted. Strategies used during play, such as blocking (guard) and hitting rocks to reposition them (bump) or remove them from play (take-out) lead to lower scores. The term draw is used to describe a shot that comes to rest in the house without making contact with another stone. To peel means to remove both the target stone and the shooter's stone from play. For more information, see Types of shots below.

To help ensure the stone lands where intended, the skip stands in the house and indicates to the player throwing where to aim given the desired effect of the shot. The other two players sweep in front of the rock. Once thrown, players may not touch a stone while it is moving, so sweeping is the only way to influence the stone once thrown. Games, called matches, usually last eight ends, though in competitive curling there are usually ten ends and some recreational games last six ends.

Playing surface

The playing area in curling is shown here. Rocks must land between the hog line (bottom of photo) and the back line (behind the rings) and between the boards or out lines (on the sides).
The curling arena is a sheet of ice 146 feet (45.5 m) long by 15 feet 7 inches (4.75 m) wide, carefully prepared to be absolutely level so as to allow the rocks to glide with as little friction as possible. A key part of the preparation is the spraying of fine water droplets onto the ice, called pebble. Due to the friction between the stone and pebble, the stone turns to the inside or outside, causing the stone's path to 'curl'. The curl changes during a game as the pebble wears out.
Occasionally, small ice crystals, "ice picks", will bond on the bottom of the stone (called the "running surface"), which increase friction and change the stone's path. As the pebble wears down, more ice picks develop, especially if the water is not treated to remove excess minerals.

A curler is photographed pushing out of the hackPlayers must push out of the hack to deliver their stones. Which foot they use is determined by whether they are left- or right-handed.

On the sheet, a 12 foot (3.7 m) wide set of concentric rings, called the house, is painted near each end of the rink. The centre of the house is marked by the junction of two lines that divide the house into quarters and is known as the button. The two lines are the centre line, which is drawn lengthwise down the centre of the sheet, and the tee line, drawn 16 feet (4.9 m) from the backboard and parallel to it. Two other lines, the hoglines, are drawn parallel to each backboard and 37 feet (11.3 m) from it.

The rings that surround the button are defined by their diameter as the four-foot, eight-foot, and twelve-foot rings. They are usually distinguished by colour. The inner rings are merely a visual aid for judging which stone is closer to the centre; they do not affect scoring; however, a stone that is not at least touching the outside of the 12-foot ring (i.e. more than 6 feet from the centre) is not in the house and therefore does not score (see below).

Twelve feet behind the button (therefore 4 feet from the backboard), the centre line is crossed at right angles by the hack line. The hack is a device used to provide traction to the curler making a shot; the curler places the foot he or she will push off with in the hack. On indoor rinks there are usually two fixed hacks, rubber-lined holes, one each side of the centre line with the inside edge no more than three inches (7.6 cm) from the centre line and the front edge on the hack line. A single moveable hack may also be used.

Graphical depiction of a curling sheet
Graphical depiction of a curling sheet


Curling is played between two teams of four curlers each, with team members named for the usual order in which they play. The lead plays first, then the second, the third, and finally the fourth; the fourth is typically the skip (team captain) but not always. For example, Randy Ferbey throws third and Russ Howard throws second. The position at which the skip (team captain) throws will be renamed with skip. For example, Randy Ferbey's team will be lead, second, skip, fourth, while Russ Howard's team will be lead, skip, third, fourth.

The lead, or first, throws the team's first two stones of an end, and sweeps for the other team members. Strategically, the lead usually has similar shots from end to end, usually throwing guards or draws.

Depending on the tradition, the lead may flip a coin with the opposing lead to determine who will have last rock advantage at the beginning of a game. The winner of the toss has the option to pick either last rock, or the colour of the rocks they wish to play with. In major tournaments, these decisions are usually made beforehand.

The second throws the team's third and fourth stones and sweeps for all other players.

Also called the vice-skip, vice or mate, the third throws the team's fifth and sixth stones, and usually sweeps for the second and the lead. The third usually assists the skip in his or her duties. When it is the skip's turn to throw, it is usually the third who holds the broom for the skip.

After each round of play (or "end"), the thirds for both teams must reach an agreement about which team scored and how many points. If there is a disagreement, or uncertainty, the thirds may measure the rocks to see which ones are closer. At this time, only the thirds are allowed in the house. In major tournaments, the scorekeeping is left to an official. Depending on the tradition, when the third's team scores, the third will record it on the score-board.

The skip is the captain of the team and determines strategy. Based on the strategy, the skip holds the broom indicating where the player throwing must aim ("calling the shot"). When it is the skip's turn to throw, the vice-skip (usually the third) holds the broom. The skip usually throws the last two rocks of the end, however some teams have the skip throwing in other positions.
The skip rarely does any sweeping, except in the house and behind the tee line. The skip is required to stay out of the playing area when it is the other team's turn, but he is allowed to sweep stones in motion behind the tee line as a result of their shot. (In International rules, the skip, when he or she is not throwing, is the only player allowed to sweep their opponent's stones behind the tee-line.)

The "fourth" refers to the thrower of the last two stones in each end for a team if that player is not the skip. That is, if the skip does not play last rocks in each end, the last player to throw is known as Fourth.

Team naming

Except in international or some national and provincial events in Canada and the United States, a team will usually be identified by the last name of the skip. For example, Cassandra Johnson's foursome is known as "Team Johnson," unless they are representing the United States in the World Championships or the Olympics, in which case they would be known as "Team USA".


Curling shoes showing the Teflon strip which aides to slide out of the hackShoes

Curling shoes: The slider shoe (center), with its thin Teflon surface, is worn during delivery to slide on the ice; a slip-on gripper (left) is worn over the slider at other times; the other shoe (right) has a rough surface to give traction on the ice.

When curling, players need to wear specially designed shoes. The sole of one shoe has a thin strip of Teflon or another type of smooth surface, called a slider. Inexpensive sliders can be purchased and attached to any shoes by means of an elastic strap. This enables curlers to slide out of the hack when delivering a rock. Left-handed curlers wear this shoe on their right foot, while right-handed curlers wear it on their left. The other shoe has a thin layer of rubber to maximize traction on the ice. Another piece of footwear is the gripper, which can slide on and off the shoe with the slippery surface. This is also usually made of rubber. This piece of equipment is needed when a player is sweeping, and needs traction with both feet.


The curling broom is used to sweep the ice surface in front of the rockBrooms (or brushes)

The curling broom is used to sweep the ice surface in front of the rock. Aggressive sweeping momentarily melts the ice, which lessens friction, thereby lessening the deceleration of the rock, while straightening the trajectory of the rock. The broom can also be used to clean debris off the ice. The skip will also hold a broom at the opposite end of the rink from the delivering player to show the deliverer where to aim the rock.

In earlier days, brooms were made of corn strands and were similar to household brooms. Brushes were used primarily by elderly curlers as a substitute for corn brooms. Today, brushes have replaced traditional corn brooms at every level of curling, but are universally referred to as brooms. Brooms are also used by some curlers as a balancing aide during delivery of the stone.

Curling stone (or rock)

The curling stone, or rock, weighs a maximum of 44 lbs. (19.96 kg) and is fitted with a handle on top allowing it to be rotated as it is released. If the handle is rotated across the body (clockwise for a right-handed thrower, counter-clockwise for a leftie), the shot is said to be an in-turn, and if rotated away from the body (counter-clockwise for a right-handed thrower, clockwise for a leftie), it is an out-turn. The handle may also contain circuitry for detecting hog line violation.

The bottom of the rock is not flat, however, but concave with the actual surface in contact with the ice ("running surface") being only ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12 mm) wide along the rim of the concave bottom. This narrow running surface allows the pebble applied to the ice to have an effect on the action of the rock. On properly prepared ice, the rock's path will bend (curl) in the direction the front edge of the rock is turning, especially toward the end of its delivery. The degree of curl depends on several factors, including the preparation of the ice and the flattening of common paths to the house during the game. Ice on which the rocks curl well is said to be swingy.

The curling stone or rock is made out of granite.The Scots in particular believe that the best quality curling stones are made from a specific type of granite called "Ailsite", found on the Ailsa Craig, an island off the Ayrshire coast. Most curling stones are made from this granite. Because of the particular rarity of Ailsite, costs for curling stones can reach as much as $1500 (USD) for Olympic grade stones. Many curling clubs use a lower grade stone that can be upwards of $500. Very informal neighbourhood curling clubs with limited resources may make cylindrical "curling stones" out of concrete-filled cans.

The curling stones used at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino were provided by the Garn For granite quarry at the Yr Eifl mountain on the Llŷn Peninsula in North-West Wales.


Specialized equipment

A special handle for stones, called "Eye On The Hog", has recently been developed, which integrates electronics to ensure the stone is released before it crosses the hog line. The handle is coated in metallic paint; the circuitry detects the relative charge of the thrower's hand contact to determine if they are still in contact, and a linear field is established at the hog line to indicate its location to the internal sensor. Lights at the base of the handle indicate whether contact was sustained past the line or not. Not only does this remove the chance for human error (eliminating the game's most frequent cause of controversy), but it means there is no need for hogline officials as well. It is finding use in curling clubs and high-level tournaments (including the 2006 Winter Olympics) alike.

Although the rock is designed to be delivered by players grasping the handle as they slide down the ice, a special "delivery stick" may be used by players incapable of delivering the rock in this fashion. Such a stick is designed to attach to the handle so that it can be released without requiring the player to place a hand on the handle in a crouched position. This allows the game to be played by players with disabilities, as well as those unable to crouch comfortably. According to the Canadian Curling Association Rules of Curling, "The use of a curling aid commonly referred to as a 'delivery stick' which enables the player to deliver a stone without placing a hand on the handle is considered acceptable."

Game play

A competitive game usually consists of ten ends. Recreational games are more commonly only eight or even six ends. An end consists of each player from both teams throwing two rocks with the players on each side alternating shots, for a total of sixteen rocks. If the teams are tied at the completion of ten ends an extra end is played to break the tie. If the match is still tied after the extra end, play continues for as many ends as may be required to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed (see Scoring below).

It is not uncommon at any level for a losing team to terminate the match before all ends are completed if it believes it no longer has a realistic chance of winning. Most competitive tournaments require eight ends to be completed before allowing a losing team to concede in this manner. Competitive games will usually end once the losing team is "run out of rocks" - that is, once it has fewer stones in play and/or available for play than the number of points needed to tie the game in the final end.

In international competition each side is given 73 minutes to complete all of their throws. Each team is also allowed two 60 second timeouts per ten end game. If extra ends are required each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete their throws during the extra end. One added 60 second timeout is allowed in each extra end.


When throwing the rock, you must release it before reaching the near hogline (players usually slide while releasing their shots) and it must cross the far hogline; otherwise the rock is removed from play.

While the first three players throw their rocks, the skip remains at the far end of the ice to guide the players. While the skip is throwing, the third takes this role. Thus, each time a rock is thrown, there is one player throwing the rock, and another player at the far end.

The two remaining players, equipped with brooms, follow the rock and assist in guiding its trajectory by sweeping the ice before the rock. Sweeping causes the rock to decrease its curl but travel a greater distance. The sweeping players combine directions from the skip and/or the thrower with their own instincts for the weight of the rock, as well as extremely precise timing, to guide the rock into the appropriate position. Often when giving instructions, the thrower or skip will yell "HARD." They are referring to the amount of pressure the sweepers should use to sweep the ice. Teams confer between throws to determine where they will attempt to place the next rock.

Delivering the rock

The process of throwing a rock is known as the delivery. While not mandatory, most curlers deliver the rock from sliding out from the hack. When sliding out, one must start with one shoe (the one with the non-slippery sole) against one of the hacks (a position referred to as being in the hacks). For a right-handed curler, this means starting from the left hack, and vice versa for a left-handed curler.
When delivering the rock, it is important to remember that the momentum behind how much weight is applied to the rock depends on how much leg drive the delivery has. It is usually not wise to push the rock with the arm, unless absolutely necessary. When in the hack, one must crouch down with the body lined up and shoulders square with the skip's broom at the other end. While in the hack, one may hold a broom out for balance. Different curlers hold their broom out in many different fashions. The broom is held in the hand opposite from the rock, and should be positioned so that the non-sweeping side of the broom is against the ice. This prevents drag which would be caused by the soft head of the broom dragging against the ice.

Before any delivery is done, it is important to ensure that the running surface of the rock is clean, and that the area around you is clean as well. This is achieved by wiping the running surface of the rock with either your hand or with the broom, and then cleaning the area around you with the broom. The reason for this is that any dirt in the area or on the bottom of a rock could alter the trajectory of it and ruin the shot. When this happens, this is called a "pick".

After cleaning the rock, the next step is to know what rotation, or turn, to put on the rock. The skip will usually tell the thrower this information. The thrower will then place the handle of the rock generally at either a "two o'clock" or a "ten o'clock" position. When delivering the rock, the thrower will turn the rock from one of these two positions toward the "twelve o'clock" position before releasing it. A rock turned from ten o'clock to twelve will spin clockwise and curl to the right, and a rock turned from two o'clock to twelve will have the opposite effect. A generally desired rate of turn is about two and a half rotations before coming to a rest.

Once the thrower knows the turn to give the rock, the thrower will place the rock in front of his or her toe in the hack. At this point the thrower will then start his or her delivery. This begins by slightly rising from the hack, and moving the rock back to one's toe. This is the beginning of a pendulum movement that will determine the force given to the rock. Some older curlers will actually raise the rock in this backward movement, as this is what they are accustomed to. The forward thrust of the delivery comes next. The thrower moves his or her slider-foot in front of the other foot while keeping the rock ahead of him. The thrower then lunges out from the hack. The more thrust from this lunge, the more power or "weight" the rock will have. When lunging out, the gripper-foot will drag behind the thrower. When lunging out, it is important to push as precisely as possible in the direction of the skip's broom at the other end, so that the "line" of the rock is accurate. The rock should be released before the thrower's momentum wanes at which point the thrower imparts the appropriate curl, keeping in mind the stone should be released before the first hog-line.

The amount of weight given to the rock will also be told to the thrower by the skip at the other end. This usually occurs by the skip tapping the ice with his broom where he or she wants the rock to be delivered. In the case of a take-out or a tap, the skip will tap the rock that he or she wants removed or tapped.

It should also be noted that with a more skilled skip, where he wants the rock to land will not always be the exact place he holds the broom if the skip expects the rock to curl. When the rock is delivered accurately at the broom, it will curl towards where the skip wants it to land.


Sweeping during a curling matchThe curling stone or rock is made out of granite. When a rock is delivered, it is important that there be two players following the rock so that they are ready to sweep its path if needed.

 Sweeping is done for two reasons: to make the rock travel farther, and to make the rock travel straighter (curl less).

When sweeping, pressure and speed of the brush head are key to slightly melting the pebbled ice in the path of the rock.

One of the interesting strategy aspects of curling is knowing when to sweep. When swept, a rock will always travel both farther and straighter. In some situations, one of the two is often not desirable (for example, a rock may have too much weight, but needs sweeping to prevent curling into a guard), and the team must decide which is better: getting by the guard but traveling too far, or hitting the guard.

Much of the yelling that goes on during a curling game is the skip calling the line of the shot. The skip evaluates the path of the rock and calls to the sweepers to sweep as necessary to hold the rock straight. The sweepers themselves are responsible for judging the weight of the rock and ensuring the length of travel is correct.

Usually, the two sweepers will be on opposite sides of the rock's path. Grip of the broom is vital - one hand grips the top (non-brush end) of the handle while the other grips the handle close to the head of the broom so that as much pressure as needed may be applied while sweeping, though the precise amount of pressure may vary from relatively light brushing to maximum-pressure scrubbing. It is important to never to touch the rock while sweeping (touching the rock results in "burning" it, and the opposing skip may opt to have the rock removed from play).

Sweeping can be done anywhere on the ice up to the "tee-line", as long as it is only for your own team's rock. Once your team's rock crosses the tee-line, only one player may sweep it. Additionally, when an opposing rock crosses the tee-line, one player from your team is allowed to sweep it. This is the only case that a rock may be swept by an opposing team member. In international rules, this player must be the skip, or if the skip is throwing, then the third.


Types of shots

Essentially, there are two kinds of shots in curling, the draw and the takeout. There are many variations of these shots, however. Draws are shots in which the stone is thrown only to reach the house (or in front of the house - when the rock is called a guard), while takeouts are shots designed to remove stones from play. Choosing which shot to play will determine whether the thrower will use an in-turn or out turn, for a right-handed person, the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the stone, respectively. Possible draw shots include guard, raise, come around, and freeze. Takeout shots include peel, hit and roll, chip and hack. For a more complete listing look at the Glossary of curling terms.

Free guard zone

Until four rocks have been played (two from each side), rocks in the free guard zone (those rocks left in the area between the hog and tee lines, excluding the house) may not be removed by an opponent's stone. These are known as guard rocks. If the guard rocks are removed, they are replaced and the opponent's rock is removed from play. This rule is known as the four-rock rule or the free-zone rule; some people and leagues play with a three-rock rule, where the rule is in place until three rocks are played.

This rule, a relatively recent addition to curling, was added in response to a strategy of "peeling" opponents' guard stones (knocking them out of play at an angle that caused the shooter's stone to also roll out of play, leaving no stones on the ice). Skilled teams leading a game would employ this strategy to prevent their opponents from "stealing" an end (scoring without having the last rock, or hammer) by placing guard stones and later trying to draw around them and using them for protection. The team with the hammer could peel rock after rock, which would blank the end, keeping the last rock advantage for another end. While a sound strategy, this made for an unexciting game.

Last rock (or Hammer)

The last rock in an end is called the hammer. Before the game, teams typically decide who gets the hammer in the first end by coin toss or similar method. (In tournaments, this is typically assigned, giving every team the first-end hammer in half their games.) In all subsequent ends, the hammer belongs to the team that did not score in the preceding end. In the event that neither team scores, the hammer remains with the same team. Naturally, it is easier to score points with the hammer than without; in tournament play, the team with the hammer generally tries to score two or more points. If only one point is possible, the skip will often try to avoid scoring at all in order to retain the hammer until the next end, when two or more points may be possible. This is called a blank end. Scoring without the hammer is commonly referred to as stealing, or a steal, and is much more difficult.


After both teams have delivered eight rocks, the team with the rock closest to the button is awarded one point for each of its own rocks that is closer than the opponent's closest rock. Rocks that are not in the house (further from the center than the outer edge of the 12-foot ring) do not score even if no opponent's rock is closer. A rock is considered in the house if any portion of its edge is over any portion of the 12-foot ring. Since the bottom of the rock is rounded, a rock just barely in the house will not have any actual contact with the ring, which will pass under the rounded edge of the stone, but it still counts.

The score is marked on a scoreboard, of which there are two types. One is the baseball type scoreboard, which is usually used for televised games. On this scoreboard the ends are marked by columns 1 through 10 (or 11 for the possibility of an extra end to break ties) plus an additional column for the total. Below this are two rows — one for each team. The number of points each team gets in an end is marked this way.

The other form of scoreboard is the one used in most curling clubs (see photo). It is set up in the same way, except the numbered row indicates points, not ends, and it can be found between the rows for the team. The numbers placed are indicative of the end. If the red team scores 3 points in the first end (called a three-ender), then a one (indicating the first end) is placed beside the number three in the red row. If they score two more in the second end, then a two will be placed beside the five in the red row indicating that the red team has five points in total (3+2). This scoreboard works because only one team can get points in an end. However, some confusion can exist if no team gets points in an end. This is called a blank end and the end number usually goes in the furthest column on the right in the row of the team who has the hammer (last rock advantage).


Conceding a game

When a team feels it is impossible or near impossible to win a game, they will usually shake hands with the opposing team to concede defeat. This may occur at any point during the game, but usually happens near the final end. When a game is completed by playing all ends, both teams also shake hands. This is often accompanied by saying "Good game!" Hands are also shaken before the game, accompanied by saying "Good curling!" to the opposing team. In the Winter Olympics, a team may concede after finishing any end during a round-robin game, but can only concede after finishing eight ends during the knockout stages.

Dispute resolution

Most decisions about rules are left to the skips. However, all scoring disputes are handled by the third, or vice-skip. No players other than the third from each team should be in the house while score is being debated. In tournament play the most frequent circumstance in which a decision has to be made by someone other than the third is the failure of the thirds to agree on which rock is closest to the button. An independent official then measures the distances using a specially designed device that pivots at the center of the button. When no independent officials are available, the thirds measure the distances.

Curling culture

Curling is played in many countries including the United States, United Kingdom (especially Scotland), Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and Japan, all of which compete in the world championships.

Curling is particularly popular in Canada. Improvements in ice making and changes in the rules to increase scoring and promote complex strategy have increased the already high popularity of the sport in Canada, and large television audiences watch annual curling telecasts, especially the Scott Tournament of Hearts (the national championship for women), the Brier (the national championship for men), and the women's and men's world championships.

Despite the Canadian province of Manitoba's small population, teams from that province have won the Brier more times than teams from any other province. The Tournament of Hearts and the Brier are contested by provincial and territorial champions, and the world championships by national champions.

Curling is the provincial sport of Saskatchewan, home of one of the most famous curlers, the late Sandra Schmirler, who led her team to the first ever gold medal in women's curling in the 1998 Winter Olympics. When she died two years later from cancer, over 15,000 attended her funeral.

An amateur sport

While Canadian bonspiels (tournaments) offer cash prizes, there are no full-time professional curlers. However, some curlers make quite a lot of their income from curling. Some stay-at-home mothers or house-wives can claim curling as their profession. Still, curling survives as a people's sport, returning to the Winter Olympics in 1998 with men's and women's tournaments after not having been on the official Olympic program since 1924 (that year's curling competition, for men only, was confirmed as official by the IOC in 2006). Because accuracy, strategy, skill, and experience are more valuable in curling than traditional sports virtues of speed, stamina, and strength, most competitive curlers are older than their counterparts in other sports. However, there are many young teams who turn heads, and junior curling is quite popular, with national finals being televised nationwide in Canada.

Good sportsmanship

More so than in many team sports, good sportsmanship is an integral part of curling. For example, celebrating an error by the opposing team, fully acceptable in some sports, is frowned upon in curling. Even at the highest levels of play, a player is expected to "call their own fouls", so to speak, such as alerting the opposing skip if they burned a stone. It is also traditional for the winning team to buy the losing team a drink after the game. (This is in interesting contrast to the game of darts, where the loser traditionally buys the winner a drink by way of congratulations.)

Additional Information

The means of preparation one must take to be competitive in the sport of curling go beyond physical fitness and above-average agility. The competitor must not only be able to have an extensive understanding of classical mechanics with an emphasis on friction, but must be able to apply this knowledge to the playing field. This is a commonly overlooked fact, often making curling seem like a somewhat dull sport. As such, curling is an excellent example of the adage "easy to learn, but difficult to master".

By the Numbers

The participants and commentators of curling use various measures to relate information about the behavior of ice and the individual rocks thrown.

The ice in the game may be fast or slow. If the ice is fast, a rock will travel further with a given amount of weight on it. The speed of the ice is measured in seconds. This measure is the amount of time that a draw to the button will spend moving before it comes to a rest. If the ice is slow, the rock will have to have more weight in order to reach the button and would reach the button more quickly. Thus, the speed of the ice (in seconds) is lower than if the ice is fast, in which case the rock would have to be thrown more slowly and would take longer to get there.

Addtionally, the weight (speed) of an individual rock can also be measured in seconds. This time is the time the rock takes to cross first one hogline and then the other. If this number is lower, the rock is moving faster, so again low numbers mean more speed. The ice in a match will be somewhat consistent and thus this measure of speed can also be used to measure how far down the ice the rock will travel. Once it is determined that a rock taking (for example) 9 seconds to go from hogline to hogline will stop on the button, the curler can know that if they can match that time with later stones, they can throw stones that will stop near the button.


This is a glossary of terms you hear in curling

1 12 foot

The 12-foot diameter circle outermost in the house.
 The 4-foot diameter circle in the house. It surrounds the centre area called the button. It is used as a visual aid only - there is no extra score for placing a stone within it.
8 foot The 8-foot diameter circle in the house. It is used as a visual aid only. The 8-foot circle is generally not actually painted - it appears as the empty space between the 12-foot and 4-foot rings.
A Anti-slider Synonymous with gripper.

Arena ice Temporary curling ice made quickly on a hockey rink or the like, it's generally of a lower quality than that of a full-time curling facility.
B Back line The line right behind the house. If a rock completely crosses the back line, it is removed from play.

Back of the House The portion of the house behind the Tee line

Biter A stone that barely touches the outside of the house, ie. the 12-foot ring

Blank end
An end in which no stones are touching the house, and thus no points are scored. In regular play the team that has the hammer retains it for the next end

Scots for league match, this is the term used for a curling tournament. Compare spiel

Brier The Canadian men's curling championship, held annually since 1927

Broom An implement with which players sweep the ice to make a stone travel farther and curl less. Though brushes have completely replaced brooms, the traditional name remains

Brush See broom

Bump Slang for raise

Burn To accidentally touch a moving stone

Button The center (bullseye) of the house
C Cashspiel
A tournament with significant entries fees and large prizes, sometimes part of a charity event. Despite the large prizes, cashspiels are not the premier events in curling.

Center line A line running lengthwise down the center of the ice, used as a visual aid. (Some sheets do not have a center line, or do not have one between the hog lines.)

Chip A takeout thrown that hits a rock at an angle.

To brush the ice lightly in front of a moving rock to remove any debris and ensure a correct line; less vigorous than a sweep.

Club The location of the curling rink. Most players usually refer to it as "The Club"

Come-around Any shot that curls around another rock.

Corner guard A type of guard that is off to the side of the house

Cover Protection given to a rock by a rock in front of it

Curl Movement of a moving rock away from a straight line. As a verb, to play at curling

Curling pin A collectible pin worn on a sweater. A longstanding tradition, most curling clubs and many tournaments produce one. These are souvenirs of participation, not awards

Curling stick A device that permits a player to deliver a stone while standing upright. Generally used by older players, these are legal in most games
D Delivery Process of throwing a stone

Double Takeout (or simply "double") A takeout shot in which two stones are removed from play

Draw A shot that lands in play without hitting another stone out, as opposed to a takeout shot. Also refers to a game (e.g., “We have a draw at 7:00 PM tonight.”)

Drawmaster Person who assigns teams to different sheets, sets starting times, assign players to teams in casual play, etc
E Eight-ender An end where all eight stones score for one team - a very rare occurrence

End Similar to an inning in baseball. In an end, each team throws 8 rocks, 2 per player in alternating fashion.

Extra ends Overtime in a tied game
Fall  A defect in the ice which causes stones thrown in an area to drift in a given direction

Fourth  The player throwing the last two rocks for a team. Since the skip almost always throws the last two rocks, this term is rarely used.

Free guard zone Area between the hog line and the tee line, excluding the house

Free-guard-zone rule The rule that states that an opponent's rock cannot be removed from play until four rocks have come to rest

Freeze  A precise draw weight shot where a delivered stone comes to rest against a stationary stone, making it nearly impossible to knock out

Front of
the House
the portion of the house closer to the hog line
Guard  A rock that is placed in front of another rock to protect it from being knocked out by the other team, or placed with the intent to later curl another rock around it and thus be protected. Guards are typically placed between the hog line and the very front of the house

Gripper  A rubber or other material attached to a curling shoe to improve traction on the ice. Also known as an anti-slider. See also Slider
Hack Similar to a starting block in track and field, the foothold device where the person who throws the rock pushes off for delivery

Hammer The last rock in an end - a huge advantage. The team with the last rock is said to "have the hammer"

Hard  The skip yells this to tell the sweepers to put more pressure on the ice when sweeping

Handle  The part of the stone held by the player. The phrase "losing the handle", refers to a rock which stops curling, or which changes direction of curl, while moving

Heavy  A stone that is thrown harder than required and will probably slide too far

Hit and roll A takeout rock that, after making contact with another rock, slides (rolls) into a designated area

Hog line The line which the stone must completely cross to be considered in play; the other hog line indicates the line before which the thrower must let go of the rock during delivery

Hog line violation Failure to release a stone before crossing the near hog line

Hogger A shot that comes to rest short of or on the far hog line and is removed from play

House The three concentric circles where points are scored
Ice (more, less, too much, not enough) Adjustment to the crosswise distance between the skip's broom and the desired target area. For example, a player who feels that the skip's broom is too close to the target might request "more ice"

A shot in which the handle of the stone is rotated across the body. For a right-handed thrower, an in-turn is clockwise, and the opposite for a leftie

The player who throws the first two rocks for a team

The count of the number of stones of one colour closest to the center of the button, closer than the innermost stone of the other colour

Line The path of a moving stone. A 'good' line indicates it is headed where it was intended to go; a 'bad' line has deviated

A stone that is not thrown hard enough

LSFE Last Stone in the First End
Mate Name given to the player who throws the fifth and sixth rocks for a team, also known as a third or vice skip
Narrow A stone delivered off the broom too close to the desired target and therefore likely to curl past it

Negative Ice A shot in which the player curls the stone in the opposite direction in which the stone is expected to curve, due to significant defects in flatness of the ice surface. For example, if the curvature of the ice causes all stones to drift sharply to the right, a skip may request the shooter to aim to the left of the desired location and curve the stone to the left as well

No handle A rock delivered without a turn, usually done in error. See Straight handle
Off the broom An incorrectly aimed shot, opposite of on the broom

On the broom A correctly aimed shot that starts out directly at the broom held by the skip

Out-turn A shot in which the handle of the stone is rotated away from the body. For a right-handed thrower, an out-turn is counter-clockwise, and the opposite for a leftie
Small droplets of water intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface. Also a verb; the action of depositing water droplets on the ice. e.g. to pebble the ice between games

Peel  A takeout thrown which removes a stone from play as well as the delivered stone

Pick  Occasionally, a foreign particle such as a hair will be picked up by the running surface causing the rock to deviate from its expected path, usually by increasing friction and thereby the amount of curl

Port  A space between two stones wide enough for a delivered stone to pass through
Raise  A shot in which the delivered stone bumps another stone forward

Raise Takeout A shot in which the delivered stone bumps another stone which in turn knocks another stone out of play

Rings The house

Rink  A curling team

Roaring Game, The Slang for the game of curling, it's the sound a stone makes while sliding along the ice

Rock  The device thrown by curlers during the game. It is made of granite and has a standard weight of 19.6 kg (44 lbs). Also called a stone

Rotation Description of a spinning rock

Running surface he part of the rock which comes in contact with the ice. It is about 7 mm wide (0.25 inches)
Second The player who throws the third and fourth rocks for a team

Sheet The complete area of ice that on which the game is played

Shot rock The rock in the house closest to the button. The next closest rocks are second shot and third shot

Silver Broom The world championships from 1968-1985

Skip  The player who calls the shots and traditionally throws the last two rocks. Typically the best player on the team. As a verb, to "skip" means to lead one's rink

Slider  A piece of teflon or similar material attached to a curling shoe that allows the player to slide along the ice

Spiel Scots for match, game or competition, this is the term used for a curling competition between members of the same club or community, for example parish spiel. Also used as an abbreviation for Bonspiel. Compare Bonspiel

Split the House A strategy of drawing to a different area of the house to prevent your opponent from taking out both stones

Stacking the Brooms Slang for socializing with teammates and opponents, often over a drink, after a game

Steal Scoring in an end without the hammer

Stone A rock

Straight handle A rock delivered without curl

Sweep To brush the ice in front of a moving stone, which causes it to travel farther and curl less
Takeout A rock that hits another rock and removes it from play.

Tap back Use of the delivery stone to tap another rock towards the back of the house

Tee line The line that goes across the house intersecting with the middle of the button, splitting it into two halves

Third The player who throws the fifth and sixth rocks for a team. See vice-skip

Tournament of Hearts The Canadian women's curling championship, held annually since 1982. (Other women's tournaments were held previously)

Triple A takeout shot in which three stones are removed from play
Synonymous with "third" and sometimes shortened to "vice") The player who throws the fifth and sixth rocks for a team. The vice-skip also acts as the skip while the latter throws the last two rocks
W Weight The amount of speed with which a rock is delivered. More weight corresponds to a harder throw. When used in a phrase such as "tee-line weight", it refers to the delivery speed required for the rock to come to rest on the tee-line.

Wide A stone delivered off the broom to the side away from the desired target


In 2001, curling was named the official sport of Saskatchewan.

In the early days before rock size was standardized, curlers chose to throw big or small rocks depending on the shot being made.