Curling 101

photos by Zach Hoffman

For many spectators, the sweeping and shouting are the most entertaining aspect of Curling. It’s captivating! When you’re watching the curlers sweep, you can really see how intense of a sport Curling is and how much energy the players are putting into it. Usually the more important the shot, or the closer they are to making it, the louder the skip is going to yell, SWEEEEEEP!!!! HURRRRRY!!!!! HAAAARRRDDDD!!! In response, the sweepers work their hardest to melt the ice in front of the stone. It’s actually pretty hard to be a good sweeper- the coordination, balance, focus and physical effort. Curling is more involved than it seems and it sure is fun! Below are some of the most frequent questions asked of the Bozeman Curling Club:

Who gets to sweep?
Two players on a team alternate sweeping the length of the sheet (138 ft.) as needed, while one player delivers the stone and one player (Skip) holds a broom as a target to aim at. The Bozeman Curling Club provides brooms for beginners.

What does sweeping do?
Sweeping melts the ice in front of a moving stone which reduces the friction. It cannot make a rock move faster, only farther! Sweeping can also impact how much a stone curls, or bends in its path. If a player gives the stone a clockwise rotation as it is released, it curls to the right, while a counter-clockwise rotating stone will curl to the left. The more you sweep, the straighter a stone will travel and the farther it will travel.

How many players on each  team?
Games are four versus four. However, some teams in recreational curling have up to six members on each team. When this happens, they take turns playing after each end (round.)

Who gets to deliver (throw) a stone?
Every player from each team throws two stones per end.

How heavy are the stones?
Curling stones weigh between 42-44 pounds, but you never pick them up – only slide them across the ice. Bozeman Curling Club provides all the stones needed for a draw (game.)

Are there different points for the different colored rings?
No. The scoring really is simple: At each end of the sheet of ice, is a series of colored circles, in a bulls-eye type arrangement, called the House. The circle in the center of the House is called the button. You want to get your stones closer to the button than your opponents. The team with the stone closest to the center of the button gets a point for each stone that is closer than the opponents’ other stones.

Do you wear skates or special shoes?
Players do not wear skates, but most do wear shoes that have special curling soles. The left and right soles are different. One is a sliding sole made of Teflon. The other is a gripping sole, designed to increase traction and is used to push off. These special shoes, and other Curling gear, are available at our local Play It Again Sports. The Bozeman Curling Club also provides beginners with grippers and sliders to be worn over your clean footwear.

Who goes first?
The third players on each team, called the Vice-Skips, determine who goes first by flipping a coin. The winner of the coin toss will choose if they want The Hammer (to go last- it’s an advantage) or if they want to choose the color of the stones they will be throwing. Typically, the winner of the coin toss will choose the Hammer and the Loser will select the colors of stones.

What is special about sportsmanship in Curling?
Curling is a very old sport, dating back to the 1400s, and for a sport to survive this long, it must have some pretty great customs! One such custom in Curling is to shake hands with your opponents before and after every game. If you win the game, it is also tradition to offer to buy your opponent (same position as you on the team) a drink, even if it is just hot chocolate. If you lose the game, it is also customary to offer to buy the second round!

Is there a referee?
No. The sport is governed by the spirit of curling. Printed on page 1 of the World Curling Federation’s official rule book, “The Spirit of Curling” acts as an honor code, a kind of philosophical creed for players of the game: “Curlers play to win, but never to humble their opponents. A true curler never attempts to distract opponents, nor to prevent them from playing their best, and would prefer to lose rather than to win unfairly. … While the main object of the game of curling is to determine the relative skill of the players, the spirit of curling demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling and honourable conduct.”

Are you interested in Curling? Want to come and try throwing a stone or sweeping? The next public learn-to-curl event will be held during our Curling Bonanza Extravaganza: Curling Expo on February 25,, 2018. It will be an all afternoon event at the Ressler Motors Ice Rink at the Ice Barn. Come throw a stone, or take an entire Learn to Curl class! Join us afterwards to watch the women’s Olympic championship (place to be determined). To learn more about the Bozeman Curling Club, follow us on Facebook or check out our website at   

Nathan Green is the president of the Bozeman Curling Club. All ages are welcome to join the club any time, people aged 8 to 80 are curling here in Bozeman.