Overview of the Sport

   Parry Sound Curling Club     

           12 Johnson Street    (Mailing address:  P.O. Box 738)
           Parry Sound, ON  P2A 2Z1

          e-mail: psccurlingclub@bellnet.ca


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Overview of the Sport

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to score as many rocks as possible by throwing them closest to the center of the 12-foot ring. The targets are painted into the ice just below the surface at both ends of the sheet of ice, to allow the game to be played back and forth, usually eight or ten times. Each player throws two rocks toward the target, alternating with the opponent. Rocks traveling down the ice will curve anywhere from six inches to six feet. After all sixteen rocks have been thrown the score is determined. Teams score one point for each rock closest to the center of the house without an opponent's rock closer. In each end (similar to an inning in baseball), only one team can score.

A unique part of curling is the concept of sweeping. Players vigorously sweep, or brush the ice in front of the rock to keep it moving. The friction (and resulting heat) of the brooms momentarily melts a molecular layer of the ice in front of the rock. This thin layer lubricates the bottom of the rock allowing it to travel farther and straighter.

The Playing Area

The Sheet

The modern sheet of ice is approximately fifteen feet wide by about 140 feet long. Rubber "hacks" are placed in the ice for foot traction during for delivering the rocks.


Figure 1.1 Sheet Dimensions

The Hog Line

The hog line has two functions. The far hog line serves as the leading edge of the area "in play" meaning rocks must fully cross the hog line to stay in play during the end. The nearer hog line serves as the farthest edge of the delivery release point meaning all rocks must be released before they touch the near hog line.

The Ice

From a distance, curling ice appears perfectly smooth. After a closer look, you'll notice that the ice appears bumpy. The rocks ride on these small frozen bumps called "pebble". The pebble is put on before each game with a machine that works like a flower sprinkler. Without the pebble, there would be too much friction between the ice and the rocks, making it too difficult to throw the rocks the full distance. Pebble is what makes curling a "finesse game".

The ice is maintained between games by sweeping off debris and scraping the surface two or three times a week. A special scraping machine is manufactured just for curling ice. The resurfacing machine removes the build-up of pebble and any frost that has settled before new pebble is applied.

The Curling Team

Teams are made up of four players. Each player throws two rocks, alternating with the opponent. The first position is known as the Lead and throws the first two rocks. The second position is known as the Second and throws the second two. The third position is known as the Vice Skip and throws the third two rocks. The fourth position is known as the Skip (calls each shot and is the team captain) and throws the last two rocks.

The skip controls the game by determining all of the shots and developing the game strategy. Since the rocks curl as they travel down the ice, the throwers must aim at a point other than the intended resting point. The skip is responsible for providing an aiming point. He or she places the broom upright, directly over the desired aiming point. The skip is also responsible for determining whether sweeping is necessary and communicating this to the sweepers.

Types of Shots

Essentially, there are only two types of curling shots, the draw and the takeout. There are many variations of these two shots, however.

Draws are shots that are only thrown hard enough only to reach the field of play at the other end. Takeouts are designed to remove rocks from play.

As mentioned earlier, we intentionally rotate the rocks as we throw them. These rotations are called turns. A clockwise rotation (for a right handed person) is called an In-turn while a counter-clockwise rotation is called an Out-turn. The names originally come from the direction your elbow took as you were throwing. (the elbow pointed out as you rotated the out-turn and vice versa). This is no longer appropriate because the elbow shouldn't move at all but the names remain.

The Skip's Signals and How to Interpret Them

All shots called by the skip have an associated hand or arm signal. Hand signals were developed due to the length of the sheet of ice (the option is to scream to other players at the other end). Also, many curling clubs are so loud that talking is difficult.

Skip's signals can vary dramatically. Listed below are the most common signals used. There are two basic types:

1. Signals to determine the shot

bullet Tapping the ice with the broom (intended resting point)
bullet Right arm extended (in-turn for right-handers)
bullet Left arm extended (out-turn for right-handers)
bullet Tapping the rock with the broom (intended takeout target)

2. Signals to determine the weight

bulletTapping the hack with broom (intended weight)
bulletTouching the arm at the wrist, elbow or shoulder
bullet Touching the upper body at the waist, chest and neck

The Game Flow

Games consist of either eight or ten "ends" depending on the level of competition. An end in curling is similar to an inning in baseball. Each end takes approximately fifteen minutes, so an eight end game would generally take two hours to play.

Each game, the teams are assigned a sheet of ice (similar to a lane in bowling) at the curling club.

Pre-Game Routine

The game begins with a handshake. It is customary for each player to shake hands with each opposing player and each team-mate. Shake hands with the opponent first.

Practice Slides

Most curlers take a few "practice slides" before throwing the first rock. This is done by sliding out of the hack area with no rock. Do not throw rocks prior to any game unless it is specifically mentioned in the league rules. Practice slides help limber-up the body prior to throwing the first rock.

The Coin Toss

The vice skips on each team toss a coin to determine who has the last rock advantage in the first end. In most cases the winner of the coin toss chooses to throw the last rock, the loser of the toss chooses the rock color.

Beginning of the Game

At this point, the skips move to the opposite end of the ice and the team not delivering moves between the hog lines. The skip calls the shot, the first rock is thrown, and the game is on.

Note: In many clubs, the rocks are numbered from one to eight. Unless told otherwise, the lead should throw rocks number one and two, the second throws three and four and so on.

Each player will throw two stones per end, alternating with the opponent. Your team throws one, the opposing team throws one, and so on. As the lead is throwing, the second and vice are designated sweepers, with the skip calling the shots. When the second is throwing, the lead and vice are the sweepers. When the vice is throwing, the lead and seconds are sweeping. When it comes time for the skips to throw, the vice skip takes over responsibility of the house and calls all sweeping for direction. The lead and second remain as the sweepers for the skip's shots. Yes, the lead and second sweep more than the vice, and the skip doesn't sweep at all.

Position of Players

Understanding where to position yourself on the ice is critical to team performance as well as playing by the rules. The leads and seconds must position themselves between the hog lines unless they are about to sweep or about to deliver a rock.

If you are about to deliver a rock, position yourself behind the hack and remain quiet and still as your opponent delivers. As soon as the opponent delivers the rock, choose your rock and move into the hack area. While the opponent's rock is still in motion, begin the setup process in the hack (described in the Delivery section).

If you are about to sweep, position yourself on the tee line approximately two feet from the sideline. Confirm the shot and weight with the thrower. As your team-mate begins to deliver, start moving forward and to the center trying to "meet" the rock near the hog line. At this point you may begin sweeping the rock if necessary.

When you have stopped sweeping, return to the other end of the ice. Be sure not to walk down the center of the sheet, preventing the opponent from viewing. As you are walking back, try not to distract the opponent in the hack. If time permits, stop and remain still while the opponent is delivering.

Completing the End

Once all sixteen rocks have come to rest, the vice skips from each team agree on how many rocks are counting and to which team they belong. Only one team can score in an end and the most any team can score is eight. Occasionally, when the counting rock or rocks can't be determined by the naked eye, a special measuring device is used. Normal scoring in an end may be one, two, three or even four rocks.


Having last rock in any end is clearly an advantage. It's called having the "hammer". The hammer in the first end is determined before the game by a coin toss, generally by the vice skips.

After each end, when all sixteen rocks have come to rest, one team will score one point for every rock it has closest to the center. Only one team can score in an end. The scoring team gives up the hammer in the next end. If no team scores in an end, either deliberately or by accident, the hammer is retained.

The vice skip of the scoring team is responsible for posting the score after each end. On the curling scoreboard, numbers 1 through 16 (possibly 17, 18, 19 etc.) are painted horizontally from left to right. These numbers represent the rocks scored. At one end of the scoreboard, there is a stack of individual numbers from 1 to 10. These represent the ends and are hung either over or under the painted numbers. Since teams throw different coloured rocks, the ends are hung above or below the painted numbers depending on color. In curling, the rocks scored are posted cumulatively, meaning two rocks scored in the second end are added to whatever was scored in the first end (if any).

The team scoring in the end throws first in the next end. This means that the scoring team will never have last rock advantage after just scoring.

Finishing the Game

At the completion of the game, it is customary to again shake hands with your opponents and your team-mates.


Why Rocks Curl

Figure 6-1. The running surface. Approximately 5" in diameter.

Before discussing the mechanics of sweeping, it is important to understand what is happening underneath the rock as it travels down the ice. Curling rocks are approximately 12 inches in diameter; however, there is a smaller, ringed portion that the rock rides on. This narrow ring is about 5 inches in diameter and is called the running surface.

Rocks are intentionally rotated either clockwise or counter-clockwise when thrown. Intentional rotation provides the necessary degree of predictability as the rock travels down the ice. Most rocks, if thrown without a rotation, will assume a rotation at some unpredictable point. As the rock is rotating, one side of the running surface will always be moving faster than the other as it travels over the ice surface.

Example: If a rock traveling down the ice has a clockwise rotation, the left side of the rock is traveling faster over the ice than the right side.

Differences in pressure create frictional melting that cause a rock to pivot (or drag) over the slower side. A more detailed explanation of this is provided in the Field of Play section.

How Sweeping Works

First of all, let's discuss what is happening under the rock as it travels over the ice. The rock travels over the pebble. The pebble provides a low contact area with the running surface (the rock rides up on the pebble). The limited contact area created by the pebble allows a low friction environment to exist. Simply put, the heavy rock creates friction and causes frictional melting. The melted ice is more slippery. This naturally occurring frictional melting helps explain why rocks seem to "glide" down the ice.

Now add sweeping. The sweeping motion briefly polishes the ice (pebble) just before the rock travels over it. The sweeping action melts a molecular layer of ice for a very brief moment, resulting in a molecular layer of water. This creates an even lower friction environment that helps the naturally occurring frictional melting. This combination allows the rock to decelerate slower. This results in the rock traveling farther.

The technical definition of sweeping is that it decreases the rate of deceleration. The overall reduction in friction has another effect: Since the rock is dragging less on both sides, the rock will travel straighter.

Sweeping cannot make a rock move faster, only farther!



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Last updated: 03/06/16.

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