A lot of people see the strange stones, brooms, and target in curling and think the rules must be very complicated. The scoring rules are actually rather straightforward and easy to figure out by watching a match. The team with the stone closest to the center of the target scores a point. Understanding the strategy used to get stones into scoring positions can be more difficult to master, but getting a grasp on it will help you enjoy games or even improve as a player.
Form a team of 4 players who alternate shots.
Each game of curling is played with 2 teams consisting of 4 players apiece. Team members take turns throwing stones. The turn order is determined before the game and is followed throughout it.
The exception to this is in Mixed Doubles curling. Teams are composed of 1 male and 1 female player. Mixed Doubles games are much faster than regular games.
Aim for the target in the center of the ice.
The playing surface for curling is called a sheet. You stand at 1 end of the ice and aim for the “house,” which is the target at the other end. The “button” is the bullseye in the center of this target.
Many beginners are thrown off by the size and color of the blue, white, and red rings. Ignore the rings. They’re a visual indicator of where to aim, but otherwise don’t pay them much attention. The most important part is how close your stones are to the button..
Players will start from a position 57 ft (17 m) away from the house.
To stay in play, the stones must stop between the hog line, which is 21 ft (6.4 m) from the button, and the back line behind the house.
Send 8 total stones down the ice towards the house.
Each team plays by using granite stones, also called rocks. Teams alternate turns, throwing 1 stone at a time. Each team member gets to throw 2 stones total, which their teammates guide towards the house.
Each stone weighs about 42 lb (19 kg), so guiding it along the ice takes some practice.
Team members alternate turns. You have to wait to throw your second stone
In Mixed Doubles, each team gets only 5 stones.
Play 10 ends in a game.
Think of an end as an inning in baseball. Once all the stones are thrown in an end, an official counts the score and writes it on a scorecard. Each team curls a total of 80 stones in a match.
Each end begins with the team who won the previous end. If Team B scores more points in the first end, they start the second end. This is fairer than it seems because the team that goes second in curling has an advantage.
The amount of ends can change depending on the game format. Full-length games may be limited to 8 ends. Professional Mixed Doubles games are always 8 ends long, but recreational games may be even shorter.
Get stones into the house to score points.
Only stones that stay within the house or button earn points. This is your team’s goal for each end. Curling is a careful game of teams throwing and knocking away stones in order to gain position in the house.
It is possible to land a stone within the active play area but outside of the house. Stones in these areas are usually guards. They never count towards any points.
Teams may end up scoring no points during an end. If nobody has a stone in the house, neither team gets a point.
Land the closest stone to the button to score a point.
After all stones have been thrown in the current end, the team with the stone closest to the center of the target gets a point. All of the other stones behind it don’t count. This means that only 1 team can earn points during an end. If your opponent is occupying the button and you’re throwing your last stone, you have to knock the other stone away to prevent them from scoring.
For example, your opponent has a stone on the blue ring. Your stone is in the bullseye. Your team gets 1 point.
Have several stones closer to the target to score multiple points.
Any team can score up to 8 points in an end. You get multiple points only if you have several stones closer to the bullseye than your opponent. Having multiple stones in the house doesn’t count unless your opponent’s stones are out of the way. This is why knocking out your opponent’s stones strategically can be a big deal.
For example, if Team B has 3 stones closer to the center than any of Team A’s stones, Team B earns 3 points.
Measure the stones’ distance from the circle to see which is closer.
The colored rings serve as a guide when determining who scored. To determine the distance, stand directly over the stone and locate the edge closest to the center. Do the same for any other stones to determine where they fall in the house.
The stone’s edge needs to touch the outermost margin of the house or fall within it to count. Any stones outside of the circle are out of play.
When in doubt, use a measuring stick to determine how far the stones are from the button. Referees do this when they can’t make a determination by sight alone.
In professional matches, referees make the final decision on scoring issues. However, most leagues across the world don’t have officials supervising matches, so the players have to measure the stones themselves.
Tally up your points after all ends are completed.
Scorekeeping in curling is similar to writing out a baseball scorecard. After each end, determine which stones are closest to the center. Then, record the number of points scored. At the end of the game, add up all the points. The team with the most total points wins the match.
If you have a scorekeeper, they can maintain a scoreboard updated after each end concludes.
Throw the stone by gliding it towards the house.
During your turn, crouch down by the stone at the starting block. Push the stone forward to generate momentum, then let it go towards the target. The goal is to get it in the house, usually as close to the button as possible.
The speed, force, and direction of a throw are all important. While success is not entirely dependent on the throw, your stone isn’t likely to get near the button without a good throw.
Sweep the stone to help it along the ice.
You may have seen curling players use brooms to sweep the ice ahead of the stone. The players who didn’t throw the stone all do this to guide the stone towards the house. The amount of sweeping can change the stone’s speed or direction.
The ice of a curling sheet is rougher than it looks. If a stone is moving left on its own, for example, it will hit the rough patches and spin further towards the left.
Sweeping melts the ice, allowing the stone to move across it more smoothly. To keep the stone moving fast and straight, sweep the ice directly in front of it.
Perform a guard shot to block the opposing team.
Guard shots land in front of the house but within the curling scoring area. This kind of shot is easy to remember, as the stones guard the house so opponents can’t sneak in. It’s a very useful kind of shot for protecting your stones in the house.
For example, you throw a guard in front of the outer blue ring. If your opponent hits it, they may knock the stone into the house. They need to either knock the stone away or go around it.
Areas with lots of guards can create headaches for the opposing team. Getting stones to the house involves working around guards and understanding how they will move when hit by an incoming stone.
Make a draw shot to get a stone into the house.
Draw shots are designed to get stones around guards. While they can be straight shots, many involve curling the stone with great precision. To curl a draw shot, turn the stone’s handle right before you let go of it. Then, let the sweepers guide the stone around the guard and back towards where you want it to end up.
These are some of the most strategic shots you can choose and some of the hardest to implement. They become more integral as stones begin filling the playing area during each end.
For instance, if you have a guard in front of the house, aim your stone to the right of it. Turn the handle counterclockwise to spin the stone back towards the house.
Use a takeout shot to remove guards from the playing area.
Takeout shots are thrown with such force that they knock the opposing team’s stones out of play. Stones thrown for speed and power are often takeouts. Takeout shots have to be performed carefully, or else you can knock your own stones out of the house.
For example, if your opponent has a guard in the button, you can knock it away with a takeout shot. Throw your stone with the right amount of power to bump your opponent’s stone while stopping yours in the house.
Be careful when knocking out stones. You can easily knock your opponent’s stone into the scoring area. You can also knock in your own guard stones or take your stones out of play.