Our Sport

Early History

Breughel's painting: a picture that leads some to believe the Dutch may have created curling

Itis believed the sport of curling originated in Scotland. This seems tobe supported by the fact that the earliest known curling stone · with1511 inscribed on its surface · comes from Scotland. There also seemsto be some evidence that the Dutch may have created the game: apainting by the Flemish painter Breughel that depicts a curling game ona city canal. The canvas features curling brooms, stones, and players.

Regardlessof who may claim to have "invented" the sport of curling,curling as weknow it today is derived from a game known to haveoriginated inScotland in the 1600s: it is then that the sweeping ofstones wornsmooth from the scraping of the North Sea across frozenlochs begame agame. By the 1800s, Scots from all over were taken withthis new sportand in 1838, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club wasestablished inEdinburgh, becoming the governing body of the game andstandardizing therules for international play.

Curling in North America

AsScots began to emigrate, curling clubs were established in otherpartsof the world. The Royal Montreal Curling Club was founded inCanada in1807, and there were undoubtedly curling games taking placein theUnited States at the time of the American Revolution. Thefirstorganized curling club in the US was formed at the home of oneDr.Robert Burns, on Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, Michigan in 1832.

Contemporary Curling

Withthe advent of refrigeration, the sport of curling moved indoorsandtoday is played on sheets of ice in curling rinks. Curlers slidestonesdown the ice. Each stone has a diameter of 36 inches (91centimetres,approximately) and can weigh no more that 44 pounds (20kilgrams,approximately). The undersurface of the stone is concave, tobetterenable it to slide well down the ice. Instead of having to pushthestone down the ice, a handle is attached to the top of the stonetofacilitate its release by the curler.

The best curling stonesare made of granite · in particular, granitemined from the Aisla Craig,an island of granite located on the Firthof Clyde, on Scotland's westcoast. In the 1800s, the island's 245quarries employed as many as 29people.

How to Play

Sheet of curling ice · click to enlarge

A sheet of curling ice measures 46 yards long by 14 feet wide. At either end is a house· a series of concentric circles painted onto the ice. The largest ofthese circles has a diameter of twelve feet. In the center of the houseis the button, a circle only 18 inches in diameter. This is theultimate goal. Teams consist of four players whose objective is toslide stones as close as possible to the button. All four playersdeliver two stones in alternate turns with the other team. Once alleight stones are delivered, it constitutes an end. A match usually consists of 10 ends.

Apoint is scored for each stone that ends up closer to the buttonthanthe opponents' stones. Therefore, only one team can score in anygivenend, and the points can range from one to eight. If no stonesfromeither team end up in the house, no points are scored. The teamwith thehighest cumulative score at the conclusion of the 10-end matchisdeclared the winner.

As mentioned, curling teams consist of four players and are led by a captain, or skip.Theskip decides which shots should be attempted. The skip must notonlyaccount for his teammates' ability but also for theirattitude.Defensive teams will prefer to knock their opponents' stonesout ofplay. Aggressive teams, on the other hand, will set up stones asguardsand will attempt clever shots to place stones in the house. Someofthese clever shots might include:

  • Back House Weight
  • Front House Weight
  • Hit and Stay
  • Hit and Roll
  • Draw Raise
  • Takeout
  • Come Around
  • Cleaning/Peel
  • Double Roll-in/Split
  • Wick
  • Free Guard Zone Rule
  • Rink
  • Shot
  • Biter

Curling Basics offers explanations of these shots.
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Wherever teams meet for bonspiels, sportsmanship and camaraderie prevail.

Adapted from What is Curling?
by Doug Gelbert
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