Curling Rules

If you are looking for the “official” rules of Curling or more detailed rules, we suggest you go to the following site:

The Basics

The basic rules of curling are these:

  • Each team consists of four players and each player has two stones to play.
  • The order of play among team members cannot change once it has been set.
  • A team scores one point for every stone that it has closer to the center of the house (or target) than the other team.
  • A coin toss decides which team gets last rock in the opening end.
  • You can’t touch a stone that is in play or move a stone that is at rest. In hopes of providing a simple explanation for how the game of curling is played, the following (simplified explanation is provided).

OBJECT OF THE GAME: The object of the game is to complete each end with as many of your team’s rocks closer to the button than the nearest of your opponent’s stones. Scores are awarded as one point for each such rock.

THE ICE: A sheet of curling ice is dimensioned at 138 ft x 14 ft. Unlike hockey ice, the curling surface is carefully groomed by frequent shaving to keep it perfectly level. Before each game, a light spray of water droplets is applied to the surface and immediately freezes in place as a fine pebble. It is on this pebble that curling stones ride easily and react predictably to a player’s delivery.

CURLING STONES: Curling stones are made from shock-absorbing granite. Each piece of granite is carefully machined and balanced, and a goose-neck handle is added for the player’s convenience. The result is a standard 42 to 44 pound rock, with a diameter of one foot, and a height of 4.5 inches, not including the handle.

SWEEPING: Sweeping in front of a running stone accomplishes several things. First, it cleans the path of any debris that may be on the ice that could otherwise alter the stones travel. Secondly, by applying pressure to the broom while sweeping in front of the stone, the ice is slightly warmed, creating less friction between the ice and the stone – this can help the stone travel further than it would have, and it can also affect the curl of the stone.

THE TEAM: A curling team consists of four players: the first player of the group is called the Lead, the second player is appropriately known as the Second, and the third is called (you guessed it) the Third, or the Vice-Skip. The Fourth, known as the Skip, is the captain of the team. He/she directs the strategy of the game and calls the shots. Though the order that stones are delivered typically follows this sequence, there are teams that play with the Skip throwing in a different position.

PLAY: A curling game is played according to the following procedures:

  • The Skips of Teams A and B position themselves at the far end of the ice.
  • At the near end, the Vices of Teams A and B flip a coin to determine which foursome will start first.

So let’s say Team A loses the toss…

  • Team A’s Skip moves into the house (circles, rings) at the far end, and calls for the first stone from Lead A.
  • Lead A throws from the hack at the near end of the ice with the intent that the rock will come to rest at the far end position called by the Skip.
  • The stone must be released by the Lead before it crosses the nearest hog line, and be allowed to run freely on its path.
  • Team A’s Second and Vice may help to control the path of the stone by sweeping, in front of it.

After Lead A’s first rock comes to a halt…

  • Team B’s Skip takes over in the house and calls Lead B’s first shot.

When Lead B’s stone comes to rest…

  • Skip A takes the house again to call Lead A’s second rock.

Play continues in this alternating manner, until all members of both teams have delivered their two rocks.

At this point, the first “end” of play has been completed and the score is tallied (See OBJECT of the GAME, above). The team that posts a score in the end must then throw the first rock of the next end. The next and subsequent ends are played by simply delivering back to the opposite house. An end of play normally takes about 15 minutes. A regular game, played for enjoyment and sociability, has eight ends. A competitive game, played for titles and prizes, normally has ten. Extra ends are added to break ties that may exist after regulation play.

It isn’t as complicated as it may seem! To get a better idea of the game, talk with curlers at a rink near you, or come to the rink during a bonspiel or other event watch a game – curlers are always glad to explain the intricacies of the sport to newcomers. Thanks to and for this explanation.

Curling Terms

But here is a list of terms should get you started. For other terms and animated demonstrations of shot types, visit Curling Basics. (

BONSPIELS – Curling tournaments.

BROOM – The instrument used to sweep the ice. This term is also used for the line of the called shot.

BUTTON – The center of the house.

CURL – A twist of the stone’s handle upon release makes the stone curl, or curve, as it travels down the ice. The rock curls in the direction of the turn.

DELIVERY – The body motion of a curler as the rock is being shot.

DRAW – A rock that stops in front of or in the house.

END – Similar to an inning in baseball. One end is complete when all 16 rocks (eight per team) have been thrown to one end of the sheet of ice. A game is usually eight ends, or about two hours. Championship games are 10 ends, or about 2 1/2 hours. After each end, a score is determined by the thirds.

FLASH – To completely miss a takeout.

FREE GUARD ZONE – This rule states that none of the first four rocks thrown in an end can remove an opponents rock from play if it is in front of the house. This rule was imposed to increase the strategy aspect of the game. The four rock free guard zone rule is used in America, while the Canadians usually play the three rock free guard zone.

FREEZE – A draw that finishes right in front of or next to another rock.

GRIPPER – The non-slippery shoe. Some shoes have grippers already attached to them, and some use a type that is slipped on and off the shoe.

GUARD – A rock between the hog line and the house used to prevent the opposition from hitting a rock in the house.

HACK – A rubber foothold from which curlers deliver the rock, much like a starting block in track. It is about 125 feet from the scoring area.

HAMMER – The last rock of each end.

HEAVY ICE – When the ice is “slow” and more momentum is needed to get the rock to the desired target.

HOG LINES – Located 21 feet from each tee. A rock must be released before the near hog line, and travel beyond the far hog line, or it is removed from play.

HOUSE – The scoring area, 12 feet in diameter, with concentric circles of four and eight feet in diameter inside.

HURRY – A command shouted by the skip or shooter to tell the sweepers to sweep.

KEEN ICE – When the ice is “fast” and less momentum is needed to get the rock to the desired target.

LEAD – The player who delivers the first two rocks of each end, alternating with the opponent’s lead.

NARROW – A rock delivered inside the intended line of delivery.

PEEL – A take-out shot that removes a rock from play and the delivered rock also rolls out of play.

PORT – A space between two rocks wide enough for a delivered rock to pass through.

RAISE – A draw that raises, or moves, another rock into the house.

RINK – A curling team, which consists of four players: the skip, third (or vice skip), second and lead. All players are involved in every shot, with one shooting, two sweeping, and one calling strategy. Two rinks play against each other. A rink also refers to an ice skating rink, where curling also take’s place.

ROCKS – Also known as stones, curling rocks are made of rare, dense, and polished granite quarried only on Ailsa Craig, an island off Scotland’s coast. Each rock weighs 42 pounds.

SCORING – Only one rink scores per end, that being the rink with the rock closest to the center of the house. Points are awarded for each rock closer to the center than the opponent’s. The maximum score in an end is eight, which is very rare. Typically one to three points are scored per end. The team with the highest total at game’s end is the winner.

SECOND – The player who delivers the second two rocks of each end for his team or her, alternating with the opponent’s second.

SHEET – The 146-foot long ice playing area. The sheet’s design allows play in both directions.

SKIP – The player who holds the broom as a target for shots by the other three players. Skips are also the team strategists and must study, or read, the ice, anticipate the amount of curl, and then call the shots. Skips usually throw the last two rocks of each end.

SLIDER – Shoe on the sliding foot in the delivery of a stone to allow for a long, smooth motion and follow through. Specially-made curling shoes have sliders built in.

STRAIGHT ICE – When the ice conditions do not allow the stones to curl much.

SWEEPING – Players sweep to make the rock travel farther or to keep it from curling more than desired. Good sweepers can increase the distance a stone travels by as much as 15 feet. Sweeping creates a thin film of water under the rock, allowing it to glide easier. Usually two players are ready to sweep each shot.

SWINGY ICE – When ice conditions cause stones to curl greatly.

TAKEOUT – A type of shot that removes another rock from play.

TEE LINE – The line that runs through the house, perpendicular to the sheet of ice.

THIRD – The player who delivers the third two rocks of each end, alternating with the opponent’s third. Also known as the vice skip, this player holds the broom, or target, when the skip shoots, and also helps the skip with game strategy.

WICK – A shot where the played rock touches a stationary rock just enough so that the played rock changes direction.

WIDE – A rock delivered outside the target line.

(Most of the glossary terms and text were kindly provided by the United States Curling Association)

Curling Courtesies

Curling has often been referred to as a ‘Gentlemen’s Sport’, quite like golf, as there are more courtesies to the game than actual rules. Most curling matches are played without referees, only when play progresses into playdown levels do you typically see referees overseeing a game. The players themselves monitor and confess to their infractions of the rules.

  1. Players should arrive at least 15 minutes before game time to get equipment ready. Be prepared to go on the ice at the scheduled time. Lateness may be penalized.
  2. Let your skip know as soon as possible if you can’t play in a scheduled game. You should try to obtain a sub for yourself and advise your skip who it is.
  3. Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the ice playing area at any time.
  4. Curling footwear must not be worn anywhere but on the ice and inside the rink. Do not use any equipment that might damage the ice. All footwear should be checked and cleaned regularly.
  5. Traditionally, before play begins, players introduce themselves to the opposition, shake hands, and wish them ‘good curling’.
  6. When it is your turn to play, position yourself in the hack immediately, clean your stone, and watch your skip for instructions.
  7. Never distract a player who is delivering, or preparing to deliver a stone by talking or moving.
  8. Sweepers should get into position promptly. Never run across the ice in front of a player who is about to deliver a stone.
  9. Do not block the line of vision of the player who is delivering a stone – stand well back.
  10. Sweepers, when not sweeping, should not enter the house (rings) unless instructed to do so by their skip.
  11. Sweepers should get back over the hog line quickly once sweeping has been completed. Do not stand around in the house.
  12. A running stone, if touched by a broom, foot, or anything else becomes a ‘burned stone’. A burned stone is usually removed from play (see rules). You are on your honor to say when you have burned a stone.
  13. Compliment a player on a good shot. Never embarrass another player by making remarks, clapping, or cheering for an unsuccessful shot.
  14. At the conclusion of each end of play, all players, except the Thirds, must remain outside the house until the score is counted. Only Thirds are to be in the house while a stone is being measured.
  15. After the score for the end is determined by the Thirds, the stones should be carefully removed. A carelessly deflected stone on a player’s heels could result in serious injury. Be careful. Never run and leap over the stones.
  16. Lead players should be prepared to start the next end quickly. As the stones are being stacked at the conclusion of each end of play, the Lead for the team that has just scored in the end should be setting up his/her stone readying for the skip’s instructions.
  17. Any player who inadvertently breaks a rule, and is aware of it, is the first to divulge the error.
  18. At the conclusion of the game, shake hands cordially with the opposition and your own team members.

Thanks to for this explanation