An important note to our readers: Dr. Goldline is not a real doctor, in any way, shape or form; the moniker is used purely for entertainment value. In addition, the views expressed are entirely those of the author and not of management or any other curler.
Question: Dr. Goldline, I see lots of curlers at my club using a stop watch when they curl. Why do they use one? Should I be using one?
Stop watch: friend or foe? Every curler will have a different opinion on the topic.
Flash back: I was playing in a crucial playoff game about five years ago against the top ranked team in the club and the game was tied after 5. Having the advantage of last rock in the sixth, my skip, for his final shot of the end, had to draw into the house against two opposition stones which were biting the 12 foot ring. Skipper had had draw weight all night so this was not going to be a problem. Well, yours truly is watching the sweepers come down the ice with the rock, and by the point they reach the hog line, I am thinking the stone doesn’t look like it’s travelling very fast and I ask them once, then twice then three times if the rock is going to make it into the rings and they say yes every time, but then the rock came up short and we gave up a steal of two and ultimately lost the game!!!! When I asked the front end why they hadn’t swept, the second told me, “Based on the split time, the rock should have ended up right on the tee line”. (I had two drinks after the game that night).
Enough of my personal pain…..
While shoes and brushes fall into the category of “important to have”, timing devices fall into the “nice to have/maybe I’ll try it sometime” category. The underlying premise of timing is simple: if you repeatedly measure the speed of a moving object – the rock - between two fixed points (such as the back line and hog line, or the tee line and hog line), you should be able to tell how far one rock is going to travel relative to another rock by comparing the times you captured using the stop watch (I won’t even get into the topic of whether ice is “fast” or “slow” – let’s leave that for a future article). And by keeping a mental record of these split times and the outcome of each throw, you should be able to anticipate up front, based on split time alone, where every rock thrown will end up (ie. will be the rock be in front of the house, in the rings or will it travel through the rings?)
But, timing is not a perfect science. There are many factors that impact the “split times” you record during the course of a game.
- Ice Conditions: Not every bit of ice is the same. There is more frost build up on some areas of the ice than others. Rocks may travel with greater frequency down certain portions of the sheet than others. Pebble breaks down over the course of the game. There may be subtle changes in temperature and humidity in the ice shed. Ice conditions change over the course of play and as a result, the split times associated with a given type of shot change during a game.
- Delivery: Rarely does an individual throw and release the rock in the same manner every time. Suppose you have to throw a takeout but realize that you haven’t driven out of the hack as hard as you should have to get the speed you want. Is it possible you gave the rock a little bit of a push at the end, just before you released it? Or how about that guard? Were you travelling just a bit too fast and then pulled back a little bit on the rock as you neared the hog line so as to slow it down? Was it a smooth clean release or did you “get the rock started”? All these things impact the timing and may result in an outcome different than what the stop watch would lead you to expect.
My thoughts: many teams out there use timing devices but many others don’t. If you want to try one out, go ahead. But remember this: the watch is just an aide, and it is not a perfect one. In the end, you have to rely on your eyes and good judgment to figure out where the rock is going to end up.