Curling is a lot more complicated than it looks on television, and a lot harder than it appears, even in person.
Just ask the enthusiasts at Broomstones Curling Club, who exchange glances and knowing smiles at the suggestion that it’s a simple game.
“You can learn to play in about an hour and a half,” said Scott Price, a Worcester resident who has been curling since he was a boy. “But you can play for 30 years and you’ll always be learning something new.”
The curlers at the Wayland club, where some of the members have curled since childhood while others are new to the relatively obscure sport, are unanimous in their enthusiasm for the discipline, fitness, sportsmanship, and camaraderie it entails.
The game originated in Scotland as “chess on ice,” Price said. “It’s a game of finesse. And you have to use your brain.”
The game involves two teams of four, trying to slide 42-pound stones along a 138-foot sheet of ice and have them stop in a 12-foot-wide bull’s-eye target known as the house. Using a handle atop the stone, a player can send the stone on its way with a gentle spin that is meant to get it to curl left or right, while teammates try to coax it into position by brushing the ice surface with brooms — the action melts the ice, and causes the stone to move faster and straighter. The object is to outscore the opposing team by getting your team’s stones closest to the center of the house.
Strategies include trying to position stones in and around the house to block rival stones from getting a better spot, or bumping the other team’s stones out of scoring range.
Club president David Secor of Wellesley compares learning how to “deliver” the stone well to perfecting a golf swing.
“You have to work at it,” he said.
It’s also more physically demanding than it looks.
You don’t need to be fast, strong, or be a specific size or weight to excel in curling, as you might in many other sports. What you do need is good balance, since the stone is delivered while you are crouching on one foot and sliding along the ice.
Flexibility and strong leg and core muscles are also helpful.
“You develop quads of steel,” Price said.
And arms that rival Michelle Obama’s.
Teri Olson, who walked into the Wayland club seven years ago after becoming fascinated by the sport while watching the Winter Olympics from Turino, Italy, said the workouts have been an unintended benefit of the sport that she’s grown to love.
“During a game, a sweeper will walk approximately a mile, half the time aerobically sweeping,” she said.
She and her husband are both members of Broomstones — she’s vice president — and they curl several times a week during the six-month season from October to March. They have become serious competitors, recently traveling to the national championships and placing third in mixed doubles.
“I came in, gave it a try, and got hooked,” she said.
Olson said she started by taking a lesson during an open house, which the club holds twice a year to allow newcomers to try the sport.
New players will be put on a team with more experienced curlers so they can learn the game while playing in one of the weekly leagues at Broomstones, where the sport is played nightly.
After the games, it is a tradition in curling that the losing team buys the first round of drinks for the winners, and that tradition is followed at Broomstones, where there is a lounge area and kitchen overlooking the ice.
“We shake hands before and after’’ a match, said Karyn Cousins, a past president of the club, “and socializing is a required part of the etiquette of our game.”
The open houses at Broomstones are usually held in October and January. This winter’s session is slated for February, however, after the club hosts the US Junior National Championships from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2.