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Curling 301

300 Level Courses - Designed for the Club Curler

Curling 301 - The Basics

The Five Rock Rule - The Five Rock Rule is a rule that was introduced in the 1991-1992 season as the 4 rock rule and then updated to the 5 rock rule in the 2018.  Under the 5 rock rule, a team cannot knock its opponent's guards out of play until the 6th rock in the end.  A team can knock their opponent's stone elsewhere in play or can remove their own guards, but if they knock an opponent's guard out of play with one of the first 5 rocks, the thrown rock is removed from play and all other stones are returned to their previous position.  This rule was introduced to encourage scoring as it gives teams an opportunity to hide stones behind their guards.  Due to this rule, the team's leads are often asked to place guards with their stones.  Teams without the hammer will keep their guards in the center third of the sheet ("a center guard") to block the path to the button.  Teams with the hammer will typically place their guards in the outside thirds of the sheet ("corner guards")

Tick Shots - As stated above, the Five Rock Rule prevents a team from knocking an opponent's guards out of play.  Knocking an oppoonent's guard elsewhere in play is legal.  Elite teams often use what is known as a tick shot.  Most often, a tick shot is used by a team that is ahead late in the game, when the opponent puts down a center guard.  A tick shot is a shot that is designed to move the opponent's stone and the thrown stone close to the side lines (without the opponent's guard going all the way to the side line), thus clearing the center of the sheet.  

The Hammer - Teams with the hammer are generally expected to score two points.  If they only score one point ("a force"), it is considered a victory for the team without hammer.  If the team with hammer gives up one or more points, it is considered "a steal".  Oftentimes, especially at the elite level, teams with the hammer will seek to blank the end (an end in which nobody scores by nobody having a stone on the rings) if they do not have confidence that they will score two points.  This is so that they can have the hammer again in the next end.

Directional Sweeping - In 2015, a new broom was brought to market by Hardline.  This broom had a slightly different material that was a bit more abrasive than prior brooms.  Team Gushue from Newfoundland & Labrador discovered that with this more abrasive fabric they could actually "steer" a rock in the opposite direction of the rotation by having just the sweeper on the outside of the curl sweep.  This created a lot of controversy and became known as Broomgate.  This new fabric and similar fabrics introduced by other broom manufacturers were banned.  Additionally, the old style horse or hog's hair brooms were also banned.Today, at the elite level or in any event that leads to a National championship, only a certain type of fabric can be used.  These legal brooms have a distinctive yellow color on their broomhead.  However, since this time the concept of directional sweeping has been adopted.  Under directional sweeping, teams use just a single sweeper to impact direction of the stone and both sweepers to impact the distance of a stone.  To impact the direction of a stone, teams will have the player on the inside of the curl sweep to reduce the amount of curl and the player on the outside of the curl sweep to enhance the amount of curl.  While directional sweeping does have an impact it is dramatically less of an impact that Team Gushue demonstrated at the start of Broomgate. 


  • The Randy Ferbey Team, a top level Canadian curling team in the early 2000s, developed a communication mechanism for weights using the numbers 1-10.  You will hear some teams state the weight as a number when calling the shot or when sweeping (for the sweepers to communicate to the skip what they believe the weight to be).  The numbers correspond to weights as follows:
    1. High Guard
    2. Mid Guard
    3. Tight Guard
    4. Top 12 Foot Circle
    5. Top 8 Foot Circle
    6. Top 4 Foot Circle
    7. Tee Line
    8. Back 4 Foot Circle
    9. Back 8 Foot Circle
    10. Back 12 Foot Circle
  • Beyond the 1-10 of the Ferbey method, the following additional weights are used commonly (in order of increasing weight):
    • Hack Weight - A shot that would come to rest at the hack
    • Board Weight - A shot that would come to rest at the board 
    • Bumper Weight - A shot that would hit the board and bounce back slightly 
    • Control Weight - A downweight takeout
    • Normal Weight - A normal weight takeout
    • Firm Weight - An Upweight takeout
    • Peel Weight - Maximum weight, designed to be able to knock a stone out and roll the shooter out as long as it doesn't hit the target stone directly on the nose
Ferbey System
A diagram of the Ferbey System numbering


Hog Line - There is one exception to the hog line rule that requires a thrown stone to fully pass the hog line to remain in play.  If a thrown stone makes contact with a stone that is already fully across the hog line but, in doing so, stops on or before the hog line, the thrown stone remains in play.

Burned Rocks - While in-motion rocks touched by a player are burned, there are some specific practices in how this is handled:

  • If the rock is burned between the hog lines (or inside the near hog line), the stone is immediately removed from play
  • If the rock is burned after crossing the far hog line, the offending player should call out loudly that they burned the rock but let the rocks all come to a stop.  The non-offending team then gets to decide if they want to:
    • Let the rocks stay as they came to rest,
    • Remove the burned rock and place the rocks back to where they were previously, - OR - 
    • Position the rocks how they would have ended up had the rock not been burned

 Basic Curling Strategy - Here are some basics of curling strategy:

  • When a team is ahead - When a team is ahead by more than a couple of points, their goal becomes to ensure that their opponent scores no more than one point when they have hammer.  To do this, a common strategy is to play in the house, meaning not putting down a guard but throwing onto the top 8 foot circle, perhaps.  The team that is behind will need to ignore the stones on the house until later in the end if they want to score more than one. If the team that is behind elects to hit the stone on the rings, multiple takeouts ensue and they are unlikely to score more than point unless the opponent misses a shot.  
  • When a team is behind - When a team is behind by a couple of points or more, their focus needs to be on scoring multiple points.  To score multiple points, the team should refrain from making takeouts.  Instead, the team should focus on getting multiple guards down, drawing behind guards, tapping opponent's stones in the front of the house to the back of the house (to act as a potentially backstop if their opponent tries to knock their stone out) and freezing to opponent's rocks in play (especially if they in the back of the house).
  • When a team is significantly ahead near the end of the game - When a team is significantly ahead near the end of the game, even throwing a stone on the rings might not be desired.  In this instance, the team will often intentionally throw their stones through the rings until the 6 stone in the end and, after that, they will begin taking out their opponent's stones starting with any guards in play. This strategy should only be undertaken in the last few ends of the game when a team is significantly ahead.  Following this strategy when only up by 2-3 points with 3 or more ends left in the game could result in the team in the lead giving up several points if they miss some shots.


 Curling 302 - Curling Ice

 Experienced players often use stopwatches to judge the speed of the ice.  There are a few different measurements that are used:

  1. Split time - The split time is measured, typically by the sweepers, as the time it takes a stone to travel from the back line to the near hog line during the delivery of the stone.  Some players use tee line to hog line instead.  The split-time is used as an early indicator to the sweepers of whether they might need to sweep a rock.  Typical split times would range from 3.00 seconds (for a club play takeout) to 4.50 seconds (for a draw on slam quality ice). There are a few common criticisms of split times:
    1. Split times are very dependent upon the consistent delivery of the stone by the player.  Pushing the stone or pulling back on the stone during delivery will make the split time useless.
    2. Split times often vary from player to player depending on their delivery and sweepers often do not take this into account
    3. Sweepers often rely too heavily on the split time.  Split times should only be used for perhaps the first 1/3 of the way down the ice.  After that time, sweepers should be relying on what they see and their own instinct of how far a stone is likely to go.  
  2. Hog-to-hog - The hog-to-hog time is the time it takes a stone to travel from the near hog line to the far hog line.  Hog-to-hog times are used mainly by skips to determine the need for sweeping after the hog line on a draw shot.  One advantage of a hog-to-hog time is that it is not impacted by a player's delivery. 
  3. Ice speed - Used often by icemakers but rarely during gameplay - The speed of the ice is generally specified as the number of seconds it takes a stone to travel from the hog line and stop on the tee line.  A higher number means that the ice is faster (as the stone velocity is lower the faster the ice is).  Competitive curling events are generally around 24.5 to 25 second ice.  Club ice may range between 19 seconds (very slow) to 24 seconds (fast).

Curling 303 - Curling Stones

The running surface of curling stones will wear differently between stones over time which can make stones start to behave slightly differently from the other stones on the ice.  A particular stone may be faster or slower than the other stones or may curl or or less than the other stones.  For this reason, elite teams will match stones during a tournament using practice time to throw all of the stones and determine which ones behave alike.  Sometimes, during a game, a team may determine that a particular rock is behaving differently and may elect to have someone earlier in the throwing rotation throw that stone.  Club level curlers generally don't have the ability to match rocks and their delivery and/or release are often not consistent enough to definitively identify a stone that is behaving differently.

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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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