Curling is an ice sport of fitness and finesse enjoyed by thousands of Americans. It is played for both recreation and competitive satisfaction by men and women from 8 to 80.
Long a "well-kept secret," curling made it's debut as a full-medal sport at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games at Nagano, Japan. The heart of curling is the local curling club and it members. Most clubs have their own ice facility and club rooms. Some rent ice from hockey or skating arenas.
Whenever it is played, curling is most of all a local function with leagues and local tournaments scheduled throughout each week of the season.
Many curlers look forward to tournaments (bonspiels) where they meet and form fast friendships with curlers from around their state.
Off the ice, curlers absorb the warmth of the club room, socializing and recounting their game.
Each player shoots or delivers two stones each end, or inning, alternately with their counterpart on the opposing team. A twist of the handle on the release makes the stone curl, a little like a "'hook" in bowling.
Here is a brief description of the game
All four team members shoot two stones an end and sweep for their teammates's shots. While one player shoots, two sweep as needed. Sweeping polishes the ice so the stone travels farther if delivered too softly, and vigorous sweeping requires fitness. In a typical two hour game, a curler walks almost two miles!
The skip acts as team captain and strategist. Strategy is a major factor in curling, as important as shooting skill. Some people call curling "chess on ice".
The playing surface is called a "sheet on ice" and is designed to allow play in both directions.
The object of shooting is to get the stone, or rock, to come to rest at a predetermined place (a draw or guard) or to move another rock (a takeout or raise).
The score is determined after each end of 16 stones. Stones in the house must be closer to the button (center) than any opposing stone to score.
The maximum score in one end is eight points. Typically, one to three points are scored. Games are 8 or 10 ends, lasting 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
The advanced game brings more complex factors into play; ice conditions vary from fast to slow; stones curl a little or a lot; and the other team has strengths and weaknesses to observe and exploit. Top teams must develop mental toughness.