Game Etiquette Basics

This is part 4 of the New Member's Guide, a series of articles that help prepare new club members for their first season.

By now you have maybe played a game or two, and have noticed all the things your teammates ask you to do during a game.

Curling is a game of traditions and etiquettes, and a lot of these are learned through experience rather than through specific rules.

A lot of the etiquette comes back to keeping the game flowing. Your teammates will help introduce you to them and give you suggestions as you play.

Here are some of those etiquette, and you will probably learn more as you continue to curl.

Looking for a Sub

If for whatever reason you will miss a game, that is okay. It is courtesy to let your teammates know as soon as possible and make sure you have a substitute.

Ask your skip if they would like you to find a sub, or if they will find a substitute for you. If you need to find a sub, you are encouraged to ask someone on the bye team first if your league has byes. Otherwise, each league has a subs list, and you can arrange for a sub by sending an email to that list.

Shake hands to start and end a game

Every curling match starts with the teams shaking hands and wishing each other “Good curling.” It is customary to remove your glove before shaking hands. You will end the game with a handshake as well.

Call your own fouls

Curling is a self-refereed game, so you need to call your own fouls.

For example, the most common violation is when your broom touches the rock while you are sweeping. This is called "burning the rock" and you need to let everyone know right away. That rock is generally removed from the game, but if it has reach the house and moved other rocks, it is up to the opponent team's skip to decide what should happen.


Compliment the other team on good shots. Do not cheer if the other team misses a shot.

Throwing rocks

The general etiquette around throwing rocks is to get ready.

For example, normally at the end of an end, everybody helps clean up the rock; but if you are the lead throwing right away, you would be expected to not clean up but get ready to throw instead.

If you are one of the sweepers, you would help get the next rock for the thrower, so they can focus on getting ready. Also, rocks are labeled 1 to 8, and generally thrown in that order, so when you help fetch rock, make sure to fetch the right numbered rock!

Protecting the ice

The ice is cold, and you are warm. It takes very little time to make an impression on the ice with knee or hand contact, and rocks will change direction on it.

So the etiquette is to avoid kneeling on the ice or touching the ice, especially after throwing a rock. Take your time setting up your throw and sliding, and get up when you are done with your slide.

Throwing ritual

Many curlers have a little ritual that they do to prepare for their throw, and this helps set up for a consistent delivery. Here is a common ritual, and you will develop your own as you curl!

  1. Retrieve the next rock if it is not by the hack yet
  2. Take aim at the skip's broom.
  3. Get into the hack.
  4. Clean the rock.
  5. Rock delivery routine, which is usually broken down into 3 or 4 steps.

Opponent’s throw

As soon as you are done with your throw or with sweeping, it is your opponent's turn to throw, so you need to be standing at a place that does not interfere with their shot.

The rule asks that you stand between the two hog lines, and to avoid interference you need to stand as far to the side of the sheet as possible and not walk across the sheet while their skip is communicating to their other 3 players.

The best place to stand is near the throwing hog line on the side. There are black "courtesy ticks" which basically marks that spot. Walk towards those ticks while they are setting up for their shot, and stop and be still wherever you are when they begin delivering the rock to avoid distracting the opposing team.

Once their rock crosses the throwing hog line, you can cross the hog line and help get the next rock ready to go!


As with the opponent's throw, you want to stand to the side of the sheet while your thrower is setting up so they can easily see the skip.

Since we were just all standing at the hog line waiting for the other team's throw, it tends to be natural for a sweeper to wait there for their team's rock to be thrown. The down side is that you tend to end up trying to catch up to the moving rock when it is thrown.

Instead, the best place to start sweeping is the tee line (the line that crosses the button). While your thrower is setting up, help them retrieve their rock. And when they throw, you can walk with the thrower's slide. This has the advantage of helping you get a sense of how fast/heavy the rock is -- Are you walking slowly? Or almost jogging? Communicate this with your team even if you are just guessing -- a guess is still good data that will help the skip make decisions on what to do with this rock.

Usually, one person sweeps closer to the rock and the other person sweeps ahead of that. It is a good idea to decide who sweeps closer ("taking the rock") ahead of time.

For safety, avoid sweeping backwards which is called "butt sweeping" and can be dangerous. Make sure you are facing the way you are walking and sweeping so you can see rocks in front of you.

Also for safety, walk and don't run. If you need to run, it is unlikely you will make a difference sweeping it. Walk with the rock and sweep according to the skip's instructions.

Skip’s Rocks

When it comes down to skip’s rocks, you will often see the skip and third take time to discuss the next shot. Some new curlers want to inch up to the house to see the layout of the rocks and see what is going on, but the common etiquette is for the front end players to leave them the space to talk, and prepare/wait for the skip's shot from the throwing end of the sheet.

Pull out your skip’s next rock so everything is ready to go when they arrive. You and your sweeping partner can always chat about what you think the strategy should be!

Usually the skip will let you know in person what the shot is when they come over to deliver their rock.


After all the rocks are thrown, the vice-skips/thirds will look at the house to determine the score. The etiquette is to stay out of the house while the vices figure out the score.

After they have agreed on a score, either help clear the rocks for the next end, or, if you are the lead to throw first the next end, prepare for your throw by getting your slider ready and grabbing your stabilizer.

Moving your equipment down the sheet

Curling comes with many equipments like stabilizers and sliders, and all of us sometimes forget them somewhere after our delivery; and then, in the following end where we throw from the opposite side, the equipment is not there!

Create a system for yourself to help you move the equipment down to the other end of the ice after your delivery. Usually this means moving your equipment half way down the ice and moving it down to the other end when you have a chance.

Play time, and conceding

A full league curling match lasts 8 ends and the goal in league play is to complete all 8 ends in 2 hours.

Sometimes the game runs long, but the etiquette in league play is that a skip needs to concede the game or you continue play all 8 ends.

A skip offers a hand-shake to the other skip to signal that they are conceding the game.


Socializing is a big part of the curling culture, and the curling tradition has the winning team buying drinks for the losing team, and that everyone socializes over a drink after the game.

Of course, this is a tradition and not a written rule, but you are encouraged to take the time to socialize with your teammates and other club members. After all, this is a club!

Can't get enough curling? The next article talks about how you can be more involved.