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Curling 101

Millions of people watch Curling during the Olympics but still don't really understand what they are watching....or how complex a game it really is.

We have designed a curling primer we call Curling University.  Read through and memorize the details of the 100 level courses and you will enjoy watching the game more and be the curling expert among your friends.  Read through and memorize the details of the 200 and 300 level courses and you will understand the complexity of the game and know more than some of our club members.


100 Level Courses - Designed for the Curling Spectator

Curling 101 - The Basics

Curling is an Olympic sport in which two teams of 4 players each (in traditional Curling) take turns sliding granite stones down a 150 ft. sheet of ice to a set of rings with the goal of having your stones closer to the center of the rings than your opponent's stones, once all the stones are thrown. 

  • The Sheet - A "sheet" is the lane used for a game of curling.  Most curling club's in the United States have 3-4 sheets.  In Canada, as in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the U.S., it is common to see 6 or 8 sheet clubs (or even more).

Curlingsheet flipsvg

  • The Positions - Each team consists of 4 players:
    • "Lead" - Throws the first two stones for their team and sweeps when they are not the one delivering the stone
    • "Second" - Throws the third and fourth stones for their team and sweeps when they are not the one delivering the stone
    • "Third" (or "Vice-Skip" or "Vice") - Throws the fifth and sixth stones for their team, sweeps when the Lead and Second are throwing and replaces the Skip when the Skip is throwing
    • "Skip" - Is the captain of the team and calls the strategy of the game.  They traditionally throw the seventh and eighth stones for their team (although some teams have their skips throw earlier in the end) and direct play in the far house when they are not the one delivering the stones.
  • "End" - Each end (similar to an inning in baseball) consists of all 16 stones being thrown (8 for each team, alternating with the opponent), and the score is determined.
  • Scoring - Only one team scores in each end and that is the team whose rock is closest to "the pin" (the pinhole at the center of "the button".  The button is the circle at the center of the rings).  This team will score one point for each stone closer to the pin than the opponents closest stone.  Stone must be on or overhanging the rings to potentially score a point.  If neither team has a stone on the rings, it is a "blank end" and neither team scores. 
  • "The Hammer" - The team that throws last has what is known as the hammer which is an advantage.  At the club level, the team that starts with the hammer is determined by a coin toss and, at the elite level, the team that starts with the hammer is determined through a last stone draw in which each team throws a single stone and the distance from the pinhole at the center of the button  is measured.  The team closest to the pinhole gets hammer.  After the first end, the team that does not score gets the hammer.  In the event of a blank end, the hammer stays with the team who had the hammer in the previous end.    
  • The different curling shots:
    • Guard - A shot designed to come to rest on its own between the hog line and the house.  To be used to protect an existing rock or provide protection for a rock that will be thrown later.
    • Draw - A shot designed to come to rest on its own on the house.  
    • Takeout - A shot designed to knock another stone out of play.  
  • Burned Rocks - If a player touches a rock in motion with their broom, their body or any other object, they have burned the rock and it comes out of play.
  • Weight - In the sport of Curling, the term "weight" refers to the velocity of a stone.
  • Line - In the sport of Curling, the term "Line" refers to the direction of the stone.
  • The House - "The house" is the set of rings to which the stones are being thrown.  The house will consist of a 12 foot (diameter) circle, an 8 foot circle a 4 foot circle and a button.  

Curling 102 - Curling Ice

Curling ice is not like hockey ice.  Curling ice is designed to be absolutely level but not flat.  The ice is "pebbled" by sprinkling water over the ice which causes slight bumps on the ice.  These bumps (or pebble) reduce the friction enough for the stones to slide down the ice and also produce the characteristic curl that gives the sport its name.  Good curling ice is pebbled and scraped for multiple days (with the scrape just scraping a portion of the pebble off) which creates a spanish lace type of effect.

The most common question asked about Curling ice is whether a Zamboni is used like you see at a hockey rink  The answer to that is no.  Zamboni's are imprecise instruments with a slightly curved blade.  Curling requires the ice to be extremely level.  So instead of a Zamboni, an ice scraper is used.  Ice scrapers are battery-operated walk-behind units that have a very sharp and very flat blade.

 Pebble   Ice Scraper 
Pebbled ice with a spanish lace effect An Ice Scraper


Pebble is applied to the ice by the icemaker using a modified backpack sprayer (like you might use to put down a lot of weed killer) that is gravity fed and has holes of a certain size on a "pebble head" in place of a sprayer.  The icemaker walks backwards down the ice waving his arm back and forth to get a regular distribution of the pebble.  Once the pebble is applied to the ice, it freezes nearly immediately.  The icemaker will then run a "nipper" over the ice.  The nipper shaves the very top of the pebble off to increase the speed of the ice at the outset of the game.

  Pebbling      pebble head       Nipper    
Ice being pebbled A Pebble Head A Nipper


Curling 103 - Curling Stones

"Curling stones" (or "rocks"), by regulation, weigh between 38 and 44 lbs, have a maximum circumference of 36 inches and a minimum height of 4.5 inches.  Curling stones are made out of polished granite mined from just 2 places in the world.  The bottom of a curling stone is concave which creates a small quarter inch circle (known as the "running surface") which is the only part of the stone to come into contact with the ice.  The stones also have a "striking band" around the outside of the stone which is the part of the stone that comes into contact with another stone when they collide.  Finally, stones will have eiher a plastic or metal handle that is held by the player while delivering the stone.


Curling 104 - Curling Brooms

"Curling Brooms" or "brushes" are used by players to sweep the surface of the ice in the path of a stone in motion.  Additionally, brooms are often used as a stability aid while players deliver the stone and are used by the skip and vice-skip of the curling team to set the target for the player delivering the stone.

Curling broom heads started as corn strands but over time have transitioned to horsehair or hogshair and finally to fabric.  Fabric brooms are now the only broom heads allowed at competitive events and at most club play.  The shafts of curling brooms have made a similar transition from wood, to fiberglass to carbon fiber.  There is no restriction on the types of materials for curling broom shafts but carbon fiber brooms are the most common with fiberglass shafts being common for club brooms (brooms owned by curling clubs and made available to those players without their own brooms).  While corn brooms are no longer legal for sweeping, there are still some players at the elite and club level that use a corn broom for delivering the stone.  Those that use a corn broom for delivering the stone often use the "Manitoba Tuck" style of delivery, as opposed to the more common upright delivery.

A few competitive curlers and a higher number of club players choose not to use the broom as a stabilization aid and instead use what is known as a stabilizer.  A stabilizer is a delivery aid made typically from plastic with teflon on the bottom that a player holds in his non-throwing hand while delivering a stone. It is easier to place a lot of weight on a stabilizer than a broom and it is often used to teach new curlers for this reason.

 curling broom 5       Manitoba Tuck       Stabilizer   
 Different generations of curling brooms The Manitoba Tuck delivery A stabilizer


Curling 105 - Curling Shoes

Curling shoes are similar to normal athletic shoes except for their insulation and surfaces.  Curling shoes are often insulated given that players are going to spend 2+ hours standing on a surface of ice.  The surface of curling shoes differ from foot to foot.  The surface of a curler's shoe on their non-dominate foot will be a teflon slider.  The surface of their dominant foot is a rubbery grippy material.  When curlers do not want to slide, theu will place a "gripper", which are similar to golashes over their teflon slider.

Curling shoes may be professionally made or a normal sneaker can be modified into a curling shoe through the application of the teflon slider and gripper surfaces.  

Novice curlers will typically use a teflon slider rather than purchasing new shoes.  These sliders can be step-on sliders, elastic sliders or slip on sliders.  Many curling clubs also make grippers available for novice curlers for the dual benefit of safety (grippers provide superior traction on the ice than sneakers) and keeping the ice clean (this keeps the sneaker sole that was work outide from touching the ice). 

Our Location

3837 N. Wells Street 
Fort Wayne IN 46808


Directly across Wells Street from the Parkview Ice House

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Phone: (260)739-5182

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Club Information

The Fort Wayne Curling Club is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that offers leagues for curlers of all ages and abilities, Learn to Curl sessions, private events, corporate events and activities for those with special needs. Curling is truly a sport for everyone and we hope that you will take the time to try this fantastic sport.

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