Olympic Curling
Image Source: Getty / Mario Hommes / DeFodi Images

It’s a lot of fun watching curling at the Winter Olympics, but how well do you actually know the sport? If you’re like most casual viewers, your knowledge of curling is probably pretty limited. It isn’t a sport you see very often, and at first glance, it seems a little absurd. Seeing Olympic athletes yelling and frantically swishing brooms across the ice will never really grow old – or less confusing. But in fact, curling requires incredible strategy, precision, and strength.

Fortunately, watching the sport doesn’t require any of the above – but if you want to better understand the game, you do need to learn some vocabulary. While some of the terms you’ll hear during a curling match are pretty self-explanatory (think: stones and brooms), there are plenty that aren’t as intuitive. Ahead, we’re breaking down the most important terms and concepts in curling so you can finally understand what’s going on at the Olympic tournament.

What Is a Blank End in Curling?

A blank end occurs when no one scores during a given end. This happens when no team’s stones land in the “house,” or the scoring zone.

What Does the Curling Broom Do?

Also called the “brush,” the broom is used to sweep the ice in front of a moving stone. Brooms help reduce friction, allowing a stone to travel further.

What Is the Button in Curling?

The circle at the center of the house is called the button. This is the most important spot when it comes to scoring: whichever team gets a stone closest to the button gets to score during that end, with additional points based on how many stones they have that are closer to the button than their opponents’ closest stone.

What Is an End in Curling?

A section of gameplay in curling is called an end. Within a single end, every player on both teams throws a certain number of stones (two each in the men’s and women’s tournaments, and five total in mixed doubles).

What Is a Freeze in Curling?

A freeze is a strategic shot that delivers a curling stone so that it stops directly in front of an opponent’s stone, making it nearly impossible to move.

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What Is a Guard in Curling?

A guard is a type of curling throw or stone intended to protect other stones in the house. When a player attempts to place a guard, they’re aiming for the stone to land in a way that will prevent stones with the potential to score from being knocked out by their opponent.

What Is the Hammer in Curling?

The term “hammer” can refer either to the team that gets to throw the last stone in a given end or to the final stone itself. The team that fails to score gets the hammer in the next round.

What Does “Heavy” Mean in Curling?

As the name would imply, “heavy” refers to a curling stone that’s been thrown too forcefully. Typically, this results in the stone sliding too far to be useful in the game.

What Is the House in Curling?

The house is basically the scoring zone for curling. It consists of three concentric circles, with the button at the very center. Only stones that land in the house count for scoring purposes.

Who Is the Lead in Curling?

The lead is the player who throws the first two stones for a men’s or women’s team in any given end.

What Is a Power Play in Curling?

Exclusive to mixed doubles, the power play is a unique situation involving the placement of the two “free” stones that neither team has to shoot. The strategy behind it is complicated. Essentially, it allows the team that called the power play to control the placement of these two preplaced stones and move them to one side, rather than the center placement where they are put by default.

What Is the Sheet in Curling?

The ice surface used in curling is called the sheet.

What Does “Shot Rock” Mean in Curling?

At any given time during an end, the rock currently closest to the button is the shot rock.

Who Is the Skip in Curling?

Think of the skip as a sort of team captain in the men’s and women’s tournaments. It’s their job to decide on strategy and direct the rest of the players on their team. They’re also the player who delivers the last two stones for their team in an end.

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Why Is It Called a Curling Stone?

Curling stones are quite literally rocks thrown down the ice during a curling match. The stones are made of polished granite and weigh between 38 and 44 pounds.

Why Do They Sweep in Curling?

Sweeping is one of the most memorable aspects of curling. The players use a special broom to sweep and polish the ice in front of a moving stone in hopes of controlling its slide.

What Is the Tee Line in Curling?

The tee line is the line that cuts across the center of the house and the middle of the button.

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