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Updated on July 22, 2011

Curling is a game played on ice between two four-man teams in which heavy stone discs are slid along the ice toward the center of a circular target. The game derives its name from the curling action that a player can give to the stone disc by twisting his wrist during the delivery of the shot.

Photo by Carol Giffen
Photo by Carol Giffen

Rink and Equipment

The rink usually measures 138 feet by 14 feet (42 by 4.2 meters). At either end is a house, or target, the center of which is called the tee. A spiked metal plate, called the crampit, on which the player stands to deliver the stone, lies 3 to 4 yards (2-4 meters) behind each tee.

Curling stones are flattened spheres weighing anywhere from 35 to 50 or more pounds (15-22 kg). In the United States, standard stones weigh a maximum of 44 pounds (19 kg) and measure 36 inches (91 cm) in circumference and 4J/2 inches (11.4 cm) in height. The player holds the stone by means of a gooseneck handle screwed into the flat surface. Brooms are used to sweep the ice in front of the disc as it travels toward the tee. Players wear rubbers or rubber-soled shoes.


Each player, alternating by teams, slides two stones toward the tee. When all 16 stones have been delivered, the score is tallied and the teams move to the opposite tee for the next end, or inning. Normally, ten ends constitute a game, but this may be varied by prior agreement between the skips, or captains.


At the conclusion of each end, as in lawn bowling, each stone lying closer to the tee than the closest stone of the other team counts one point. Therefore, only one team can score during an end, and the highest possible score in an end is eight. If it is difficult to determine the closer of two stones, a measuring device resembling a compass is used.


Curling is believed to be at least four centuries old, but the country of origin is uncertain. Scotland is a strong contender, since the first known curling organization was founded by the inhabitants of Kilsyth in the 16th century. In 1760 the famous Edinburgh Cannonmills Club was established.

The game was introduced to Canada at the beginning of the 19th century by Scottish regiments stationed in Quebec. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, organized in 1807, is believed to be the oldest sporting club of any kind in North America. Today, there are about 2,000 curling clubs in Canada.

The sport has been played in the United States since 1830, when it moved across the Canadian border into New England and northern Michigan. The first U.S. association, the Grand National Curling Club of America, was founded in 1867 and still exists. The Midwest Curling Association was established in 1945. The U.S. Women's Curlers Association is another curling organization.

In Europe the sport has a considerable following in Scotland, England, Sweden, Norway, France, Italy, and Austria. Curling is also played in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and is also featured at the Olympic Games.


As in bowling, the player swings the stone back, then releases it onto the ice in a forward motion and with a minimum of impact. By twisting the wrist slightly, clockwise or counterclockwise, a player exerts a measure of control over the speed and direction of the stone. In each shot the skip instructs his teammates as to aim, the direction of the curl, whether to guard a previous shot rather than try for points, or to take out an opponent's stone from an advantageous position. He also directs them in sweeping, which enables a stone to travel as much as 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3 meters) farther.


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