With its specialized terminology and rules, curling features a unique scoring system unfamiliar to many fans. How exactly do teams earn points during a curling match? This in-depth guide covers curling scoring fundamentals – from counting stones and ends to determining winners and concrete strategies based on the scoring format.

Overview of Scoring in Curling

Curling teams accumulate points by having more stones closer to the button (center target) than the opponent at the conclusion of an end:

  • An end consists of each team throwing 8 stones trying to get closest to the button.
  • Only one team can score per end based on which team has the closest stone(s) once all 16 stones are thrown.
  • Scoring points in an end is referred to as “stealing” because the scoring team stole a point that the opposing team was trying to score.
  • The first team to score a set total of points over a number of ends wins the match.

Understanding how closeness of stones and number of ends determine points is fundamental to curling competition.

How Points Are Scored in an End

Scoring in a curling end is determined by:

  • Which team has the stone(s) closest to the button after all 16 stones are thrown.
  • Only one team can score per end.
  • The team with stone(s) closest gets one point for each of their stones lying closer to the button than the opponent’s closest stone.
  • It is possible to score multiple points in a single end by having multiple stones surrounding the button closer than the opponents.
  • If the closest stones from each team are equal distance, then no points are scored by either side that end.

Proper strategy involves placing multiple protected stones around the house to maximize points per end.

What is Considered Scoring Range?

Only stones within a certain distance to the button can potentially score points:

  • The rings around the button determine scoring range. The inner rings mark distances.
  • In most competitions, stones must be within the 4-foot scoring radius to count. Stones outside the 4-foot ring cannot score.
  • The scoring area may expand during extra ends if no stones end up closer than the 4-foot ring.
  • Being within scoring position at the end of an end is critical to have a chance at registering points.

How Is Score Physically Counted in Curling?

Determining which team scores points involves physical inspection:

  • Officials use measuring devices to carefully determine which stone(s) rest closest to the button after each end.
  • Measurements occur if stones look within similar scoring range. Officials will examine and confirm the exact distances.
  • Only one team’s closest stones are counted in terms of how many are inside the 4-foot scoring area. The opponent’s closer stones cancel out the other team’s more distant stones.
  • If teams disagree, the vice-skips or skips can request an official measurement to verify before agreeing upon the scoring.

Accurate scorekeeping prevents potential disputes over which stones count as scoring points.

How Is Score Reported During a Curling Match?

Scoresheets list the running score at the completion of each end:

  • Scoresheets list each end numerically across the page.
  • The team which scored in that end gets marked under their name. If no score, the end box is marked blank.
  • Only the total accumulated points, not individual end scores, get verbally announced during games.
  • Scoreboards also display the total scores for each team as ends progress.

The scoresheet and spoken announcements ensure teams and spectators stay informed on the developing match results.

What is the Purpose of Scoring in Curling?

The carefully structured scoring format serves multiple strategic purposes:

  • Provides clarity on which team is leading as the game progresses.
  • Allows teams trailing the chance to catch up before the match concludes.
  • Enables teams to carry over the score from completed ends, unlike similar sport “ends” that start fresh.
  • Dictates strategy nuances depending on end, score, and hammer advantages.
  • Creates pressure situations late in games with scores close.

The scoring setup and objectives grant curling its unique ebb-and-flow nature.

Major Curling Scoring Milestones

Some notable scoring achievements and records in curling history:

  • Most Combined Points in a Match – Canada vs Switzerland at 1998 Nagano Olympics scored 17 total points.
  • Largest Comeback – Canada trailed USA 6-2 after 5 ends but rallied to win 10-8 at 2006 Torino Olympics.
  • Most Points Scored in One End – 8 points, achieved by both Canada and Switzerland in different matches.
  • Longest Competitive Winning Streak – Canadian icon Ed Werenich won 63 consecutive games during the 1983-84 season.
  • Most Career Points in Major Tournaments – Glenn Howard of Canada accumulated 735.5 points from 1987-2018.

Elite teams maximize both offensive point upside and defensive resilience within games.

Scoring Dynamics and Strategies

Scoring structure and objectives heavily influence curling strategy:

  • Aggressive “takeout” shots remove opponent stones from scoring range. Defensive tactic.
  • Draw shots into the house try safely maximizing scoring range. Offensive tactic.
  • With hammer advantage, teams attempt to score 2 or more points by placing multiple stones in scoring position.
  • Without hammer, scoring even just one point by “stealing” becomes an accomplishment.
  • Blank ends (0-0 score) retain hammer advantage for next end.

Risk tolerance on shot selection depends greatly on end, score, and hammer factors.

Common Curling Scoring Terminology

Table of key vocabulary used when discussing curling scoring:

Term Definition
End Inning-like segment where each team throws 8 stones trying to score points
Hammer Advantage of throwing last stone in an end
Steal Scoring points in an end when not having the hammer
Blank end Scoring zero points to retain last rock advantage
Measure Using a tool to determine which stone is marginally closer
4-foot ring Circular line marking the minimum distance stones must be within to score
Button Center of the house and the main scoring target
Counter Any stone lying in scoring position within the rings

Fluency in these terms enables curling viewers to understand the nuances of scoring strategy as matches unfold.

Curling Scoring FAQs

How many ends are in a regulation curling match?

Most major competitions feature 10 ends. If tied after those 10, extra ends are played until one team leads at the conclusion of an end, similar to overtime.

What is the highest number of points that can be scored in a single curling end?

8 points, which occurs if a team places all 8 of their stones closer within the 4-foot scoring zone than any of the opponent’s stones. This is exceptionally rare.

How frequently do teams score multiple points in a single end?

Scoring 2 or 3 in an end happens more regularly, especially when a team has last rock advantage. But usually scoring remains limited to 0, 1, or 2 points per end based on stone positions.

Is hammer advantage more influential when scoring is close late in matches?

Absolutely. The team with hammer has strategic advantage in potentially scoring the winning points in a tight game during final ends. Results hinge on optimizing hammer.

Can a team concede a curling match before all ends are complete?

Yes, if the score is lopsided and unlikely to be overcome, a team can concede victory to their opponent before throwing all stones, similar to forfeiting in other sports.

Does the team with hammer ever attempt to score 0 points intentionally?

Yes, “blanking” an end by scoring 0 retains last rock advantage for the next end. So even with hammer, intentionally avoiding the house to keep hammer next end can be strategic.

With its specialized terminology, curling scoring allows teams to accumulate small advantages over the meticulous course of ends. Every subtle edge and point is precious. Mastery of scoring intricacies and implications gives teams an added weapon in their shotmaking arsenal.


Categories: Curling


  • Tom Eddy

    Tom Eddy is the founder and CEO of Poll Position, a leading sports news and opinion website. Eddy founded Poll Position driven by a vision of creating an innovative digital media brand focused exclusively on sports journalism. Under Eddy's leadership, Poll Position has grown from a solo blog into one of the most visited online destinations for sports coverage. Eddy Tom


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