Curling, a game similar to lawn bowls but played on ice. Two teams of four players (given the titles lead, second, third, and skip) participate in a curling match. Each player slides round stones, concave on the bottom and with a handle on the top, across the ice of a rink or a natural ice field toward the tee, or button, which is a fixed mark in the centre of a circle (called the house) marked with concentric bands. The object of the game is for each side to get its stones closest to the centre.
Each player delivers two stones alternately with the opponent beginning with the lead of each team and ending with the skip, who is also the team captain. One point is awarded for each stone that comes to rest nearer the tee than does any rival stone. A team can score up to eight points with the 16 stones delivered in an end, or inning, unless no stone is in the house or the nearest opposing stones are equidistant, in which case there is no score. Blocking and knocking out an opponent’s stones are important strategies of the sport. The usual number of ends in a match is 8 to 12. In international competition a match always consists of 10 ends; ties are broken by the addition of extra ends until a winner emerges.
A distinctive part of the game is the use of a brush, or broom, to sweep the ice in front of the sliding stone. This is a tradition carried over from the days when curling was played outdoors on frozen lakes; it was necessary to clear the snow to provide a path for the oncoming rock. Sweeping is still used today on indoor rinks because it both removes stray ice particles and smoothes the surface of the ice, thus assuring the stone a longer ride. The broom is also used by the curler for balance during delivery of the stone and by the skip to indicate where the curler should aim. The ice is meticulously groomed to keep it completely level. Prior to competition, a mist of water is applied to the ice to create a pebbled surface that helps guide the stones.