Washington DC — By Jon Rochetti on November 5, 2009 at 5:01 am
Filed under: Curling, featuredarticle, outdoors, sports

Ice, Rocks & Brooms at the Curling Club in DC

Curling – that somewhat strange, or at least unique looking Olympic sports where two teams compete to hurl 42-pound polished granite stones down a sheet of ice toward a target, and a bit similar to bowling or shuffleboard on ice.

Curling rock adn broomThe game dates back to 16th century Scotland, where it was played outdoors on frozen ponds in the wintertime.  But its roots are a bit obscure.  The first curling club was founded in 1716 in Scotland, which is also the home to the the sport’s international governing body, the World Curling Federation.

Locally, the Washington, DC area has one curling club, the Potomac Curling Club, in nearby Laurel, Maryland.

The 200-member club has been in existence since 1961, and offers a four-sheet (lane) facility with a warm room, kitchen area, locker rooms and a pro shop.

In 1998, the Olympic committee added curling back onto the list of official medal sports. Teams from Switzerland (men’s competition) and Canada (women’s) won the first gold metals that year after curling was demoted to an expedition sport in 1924.

The 150 feet (46m) by 16 feet (5m) playing surface is an ice sheet, with a specially applied mist that creates pebble-like bumps (thus the need to sweep).  There are 12-foot (3.7 m) wide concentric ring targets called the house at each end. The bullseye or button is 37 feet (11m) from each hog lines or starting line where curlers release their stones.

A game consists of usually 8 or 10 ends or rounds. One end allows each of the four players to alternately throw 2 stones (total 16 rocks).

Woman curler at World Junior Curling Championship The object is to slide the stones into the house to score points (inside the outer most ring.)  At the conclusion of each end, the team with the rock closest to the button earns 1 point for each rock that is closer to the button than the opponent’s closest rock.

The highest score in an end is 8 points, where all of one team’s stones are in the house and closer than the other team’s best  stone.  But a perfect 8 snowman is very rare in competition, as most scores are 2-4 points.

There’s lots of strategy, positioning, blocking and guarding, finesse and control , bank shots and lots of sweeping, sweeping, sweeping.

Equipment, besides the stone include shoes, grippers and brooms or sweeps. The shoes worn by the thrower have a Teflon surface to allow for sliding while throwing a stone and the grippers that slip over the shoe when the team member is sweeping.  The broom is used to create friction to change the speed and direction of a stone along the sheet.

Memberships in the Potomac Curling Club range from the introductory level for beginners ($138 for the first ½ year) to $480 for an annual adult unlimited league play membership.  Kids memberships, which include organized youth programs, start at $60.00.

The club offers league play to accommodate curlers from first-time beginners to experienced, as well as children, leagues for players under 21 years old, as well as adults. League play includes mornings, day, evening, weekends and drop-in leagues.  There’s even a pizza league and one that includes breakfast with curling in the morning.

The club welcomes new curlers to learn how to play on some Thursday evenings (6:30-7:15) and on Saturday mornings (8:00 to 8:45), so it’s best to call for more information.

Potomac Curling Club
The Gardens Ice House
13810 Old Gunpowder Road
Laurel, Maryland  20707  (map it)

Dates & Times – Club open daily, hours vary.

Nearest Metro Subway Station – Greenbelt, Green line, then a 7½-mile cab ride.

Parking – Free parking at the rink is available.

Images – FlickrWorld Junior Woman Curling Championship, curling rock

Tags: Curling, featuredarticle, outdoors, sports

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