Curling: some variations to the grand old game

Curling: 4 players, 8 ends, 16 rocks. That’s your typical game.

Those of you who watched the Continental Cup would have seen that there were many portions of the competition which were somewhat unconventional. In this blog post, we want to throw out some ideas on events / leagues that don’t follow the standard format of the game.


The concept of a skins game has long existed in the sport of golf and has made its mark in the curling world as well. In this format of play, each end is worth a certain number of skins. To win the available skins, the team with hammer (ie. throwing last rock in the end) must score two or more points; or the team without hammer must steal one or more points. If there are no points scored in an end, or if the team with last rock only scores a single point, the skins in that end are carried over to the next end. Typically, if there is a carry over in the last end of play, a draw to the button by each team will be used to determine who wins the remaining available skins.

TV has been broadcasting a curling skins game for over ten years. At my home club, we have a regular skins league, which is immensely popular. This is an open league (ie. any combination of men and women) with 6-end games and 15 available skins; the ends are worth 1-2-2-3-3-4 points respectively. There are also club bonspiels each season which are based on a skins format, with money awarded for each skin won.

Skins games are pretty entertaining. You tend to see a lot more rocks in play, as there are typically lots of guards thrown up at the start of the game in an effort to generate offensive play.

Hot Shots / Singles / Skills Competition

In this format of play, a player is called upon to execute certain curling shots, usually with the benefit of having sweepers accompany the stone down the sheet of ice. Points are awarded for each shot based on how close the curler came to executing the shot. Typical types of shots included in this type of competition: draw to the button; draw through a port; double take out; raise; etc. If you’ve ever been to the Brier or the Scotties, a Hot Shots competition is conducted on the opening day of these national championships.

One of the key things to consider if you want to hold such a competition at your club: you should ask the ice crew at your club to include the “hot shot markings” in the ice when the ice is installed at the start of the season. The markers ensure that the stones are placed in the identical position for every person competing.

Scotch Doubles

Scotch doubles is a type of curling played with two players per team and six stones per end per team. Three stones are delivered by each player and there are six ends in a game. Sweeping is permitted only after the far hog-line. Until two stones have been played (one from each side), stones in the free guard zone (those stones left in the area between the hog and tee lines, excluding the house) may not be removed by an opponent's stone.

Wacky Scoring

Play a conventional game but make it more entertaining by using ”wacky scoring” whereby the rules for scoring are different for every end of play but you don’t know what scoring rules will apply until after the last rock is thrown and you rip open the envelope! Some examples: score as in a typical game but award the points to the other team; award each team a point for every rock of theirs which is in the free guard zone / out of play / in front of the tee line / behind the tee line.

Curling: try and spice it up sometime!

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