A curling game is typically made up of 8 ends (like innings) and is played in a two-hour timeslot. Olympic and other championship matches last 10 ends and are completed in about two and a half hours. An end consists of each team member shooting (delivering) two rocks, or stones, alternately with the opponent’s player at the same position. When all 16 stones have been delivered, the score for that end is determined.
Curling is the ultimate team sport as all four players are involved in every shot. Team responsibilities rotate, in part, until all players have delivered their stones. Each team has 4 players -- a lead, second, third (also known as vice skip or vice), and skip (the strategist). All four players on each team throw or deliver two stones per end.
- Lead: Throws first two rocks (stones 1 and 2)
- Second: Throws next two rocks (stones 3 and 4)
- Third or Vice: Throws next two rocks (stones 5 and 6) then goes down to hold the broom for the skip.
- Skip: Throws the last two rocks of the end (stones 7 and 8). The skip is like the captain of the team calling game strategy. The skip stands in the far house holding his/her broom to tell the team what shots to throw and where to aim.
Each player throws their stones alternating with the corresponding player on the opposing team. For example, the lead throws his/her stones first, alternating with the lead of the opposition. The teammates who are not delivering the stone or calling the shots rotate into position as sweepers. More information on sweeping can be found by clicking here [LINK TO NEW SWEEPING SECTION ON THIS SITE].
After the thirds throw their stones, they go to the far end of the sheet (the far House) and hold the broom while the skips throw. After all 16 stones have been delivered, it is the responsibility of the vices to agree on the score for the end. The vice of the scoring team marks the scoreboard.
To deliver the stone, a player assumes a crouched position with one foot placed in a rubber foothold (the hack). One hand grips the stone handle, and the other hand holds the broom or stabilizer to provide balance. The player pushes off with the hack foot into an outstretched sliding position, similar to a lunge, with the other foot placed under the center of the chest and the stone is held out front. The delivery stick was introduced to allow curlers to deliver the stone while standing or sitting. Paralympic athletes and other wheelchair curlers use a delivery stick.
The two basic shots in curling are draws and take-outs:
- A draw is a shot that is thrown only hard enough so that it gradually comes to rest in, or near, the house.
- A take-out (hit) is a shot that is thrown hard enough so that it pushes another stone from play after striking it.
Determining the score is simple. Only one team can score per end. A stone is in the scoring area if it is in, or even touching, the house (the target). One point is scored for each stone closer to the middle of the house than any of the opponent’s. The team that scores last delivers the first stone in the next end, giving the opposing skip the last stone, also known as the hammer. Having the hammer is considered an advantage.
Rules of the Game
The rules and procedures of the game vary slightly between championship level play and league play. For example, league curlers are not given structured practice time before each game. For more information on the rules, click on one of the links below:
More details about the game can also be found in USA Curling’s Learn to Curl brochure.