The sport has been gaining a following among current cold weather enthusiasts.
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
The modern winter game of curling is based on a 16th century Scottish game. Though ancient in its origin, curling has been gaining a following among current cold weather enthusiasts who want something a bit different to do outside. Melding bits of shuffleboard, bowling and even the childhood game of marbles, curling requires little equipment and it takes mere minutes to learn the basic rules.
Two teams of four players each compete in turns on a 150-foot sheet of ice. They must propel their polished “stones” or “rocks” toward the goal (called a “house”). The house is a circular marking under the surface of the ice that looks like an archery target. The rocks resemble flattened kettlebells and are made of granite.
As a rock glides along the surface, teammates use brooms to clear the projected path of the rock toward the house; however, they may not hit the rock. Once the rock stops, the other team casts a rock. They can try to reach the house and bump their opponents’ rocks out of the center of the house, which is called the “button.” That is the highest point scoring area. The concentric circles around the button score lower points for curling teams.
Keeping your team’s rocks in the button and nudging the opponents’ rocks out of it is where curling becomes strategic—and competitive. Curlers who throw too hard may overshoot the button. But those who do not throw hard enough will not dislodge their opponents’ rocks—or may not even reach the house at all. Each team throws eight rocks, meaning that each player throws two per match. Eight to 10 matches comprise a game.
Curling facilities may be indoors or outdoors. For those trying it out, curling rocks could include frozen jugs of water, thrown with the handle on top. Household brooms can serve as sweepers’ brooms on a frozen driveway. People in competitive play use professional grade equipment meant for the sport. Competitive curlers also wear shoes with different soles that permit them to glide or grip on the ice. A bonspiel is a curling tournament, usually held over a weekend.
Participants of varying ages and abilities can participate in curling. The weight of curling rocks varies from 38 to 44 lbs.
Curling is an Olympic sport and curling clubs and facilities dot the state. The Utica Curling Club (www.uticacurlingclub.org) represents the largest dedicated curling facility in the Eastern U.S. The facility boasts six sheets of curling ice. The club operates from October through March with fall league play from October through December and winter leagues starting in January and concluding in March.
Select New York Curling Clubs
Besides the Utica Curling Club (uticacurlingclub.org), here are other places to go curling:
- Albany Curling Club: albanycurlingclub.com
- Finger Lakes Curling Club: fingerlakescurling.org
- Lake Placid Curling Club: lpcurling.org
- Rochester Curling Club: rochestercurling.org
- Schenectady Curling Club: schenectadycurlingclub.us
Also check the national organization for competitive curling, www.usacurling.org