If you can sweep, you can play curling.

Curling is a fun sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a specific area which is sectioned into four circles. Curling is very simple to learn, yet detailed.

It takes very little athleticism, so you don’t have any special skills to play. However, you do need a deft touch, strong vocal cords, and the ability to sweep like a maid. The best part about the game is that there isn’t any need for referees or umpires of any kind, which is quite different from basically every other major sport.  The outcome of the game is not decided by judges, which makes the game very inviting. Here’s everything else you need to know about the exciting game of curling.

What the game floor looks like

When playing the game, two teams each have four players taking turns sliding heavy, polished, granite stones, also called rocks, across the curling sheet. Each team alternates sliding the stones, both shooting the same direction. There is a dartboard-looking symbol on each end of the ice, which is called the house. Inside of the dartboard is a dot, which is called the bullseye. There are a bunch of lines out on the ice to keep things organized. There’s a line that runs down the center of the sheet from one end to the other and is called the center line. A stone must stop between the hog line (21 feet in front of the center of the house) and the back line  to remain in play. The tee line runs through the button perpendicular to the center line. There is also a free guard zone, which exists because the first four rocks thrown cannot be removed from the free guard zone. If they are hit, the rock is replaced and the shot doesn’t count without a redo.

How Scoring Works

There are a total of 10 ends, which are much like innings, where each team alternates throwing eight stones each. The object of the game is to have the closest stones to the button when an end finishes. Scoring is super simple, even though it may sound confusing at first. You get a point for each stone closer to the button than any of the other team’s stones. Only stones inside the house count. So, if Team 1 has two stones closer to the button than team 2’s closest stone, Team 1 scores two points. Only one team can score per end, but if neither team has a stone in the house, neither team gets points in what is known as a blank end.

Curling doesn’t require any real athletic ability
Curling doesn’t require any real athletic ability

Game Strategy

There are three main types of shots: guards, draws and takeouts. Guards block the house, of course. Draws are designed to get around the guards and land in the house. Draws will often have really nifty curls. Takeouts are hard shorts that knock other stones out of play. Olympic curlers are masters at using stones like billiard balls. Many times, curling is described as being a “game of strategy, tactics, and skill,” however strategy is curling’s most interesting element. Teams have to plot on how to get their stones into the house while still maintaining guards so that the other team can’t execute a takeout easily or shoot their stone even closer to the button. With all this being said, the most intriguing part of curling is how varied the strategies can be. There’s rarely a right thing to do and ends can evolve very differently. Some ends will be takeout after takeout, and others will involve a crowded house with several guards, requiring elaborate draws or takeouts. When it comes down to it, curling is a game about the flawless execution of a plan. There really isn’t much room in this game for luck.

Best Countries for Curling

Since the game is played on ice, Canada is obviously the first choice. They’ve won gold at the last two Olympics. The game was invented in the United Kingdom, and they are exceptionally good, too. Other sem-competitive teams include Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark. China, the United States, Germany and Russia round out the men’s top 10 in the World Curling Federation rankings, and the women’s rankings are very similar.

Best Curling Competitions

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good, stiff competition. Most people love to set around and watch competitions, whether it’s a spelling competition, intuitive blackjack competition, or an intense chess competition. As long as it involves players or teams giving their all by competing against one another for the win, it can be a lot of fun to watch. Some of the best curling competitions to watch take place in Canada, and they are the Quebec International Bonspiel, World Mixed Curling Championships, and the World Senior Curling Championships. Canada even has its own sanctioning body, Curling Canada, which organizes Canada’s national championships in the sport.