The winter sport of curling and the summer sport of golf are very different disciplines, but they are very similar in many ways. In fact, many of the top curlers in Canada are not only elite curlers but good golfers too. Some are professional golfers in the summer and professional curlers in the winter.
That’s not just a coincidence. Both games are disciplines of millimetres and minutia in terms of mental and physical demands and the execution of shots. The mental discipline required for each exacting sport is virtually the same for either golf or curling. Neither is a sport where adrenaline can rule. In fact, if you lose control of your emotions, you’ll not do well at either game.
When you come right down to it, golf is all about putting, getting the ball in that little hole. Curling is all about being able to draw the button; getting the line and weight just right to allow a team to make that happen time and again means you’ll win most games you play.
In both games the object is to get the golf ball or curling stone to a very small point on a large playing field. On a green, one considers the speed and the slopes and nuances of the green before putting. So too on curling ice, one must be able “read” the idiosyncrasies of each individual sheet of ice. Just like a golf green, curling ice has slopes, high and low points and each sheet of ice has its weight or speed to consider before executing a shot. With golf, the speed of the greens can change during the course of a game. So too with curling – the speed of the ice changes sometimes from end to end. In both games, the player who picks up on speed change first has the advantage.
You may have heard the term “having the yips” in the game of golf. A person putting a golf ball has a simple mind block that causes muscle tension on a short delicate putt and voila, you’ve missed it. You’ve got “the yips.” Curling is exactly the same. When a thrower has to slide a rock of over 40 pounds down the ice to a point perhaps as small as a couple of centimetres to make the shot, the slightest mental and physical “hiccup” can cause that same muscle flinch that the golfer experienced.
The result is exactly the same; a curler can actually have “the yips” too. The simplest of shots has been missed due to a muscle twitch brought on by mental tension, often with the final shot or at the end of the game when tension is high.
In the game of golf at the professional level the player and the caddy are a team. Together they consider each shot, discuss it and the player executes the shot based on their shared information and positive input. In the game of curling there are no caddies. Our teammates are the ones who provide information and positive input and support, but unlike golf, the entire team plays an important role in the actual execution of each and every shot.
Done at the highest level, in the game of curling, the skip will call a shot to be executed. The thrower’s job of course is to slide the rock as directed by the skip at the other end, but then the sweepers take over once the rock is in motion.
The game of curling is known as “The Roaring Game” simply because there has to be a lot of communication between all the players as a rock is sliding down the ice. That’s where the loud voices, or “roaring” comes in. Sweepers are told, usually in a loud voice from the skip, to sweep to maintain the speed of a rock or to influence how much the rock is “curling” on the ice.
While golf is a quiet, cerebral game, particularly during the execution of the shot, curling will be the exact opposite in terms of noise level. It’s very much a mental game when done well; curling is not a quiet game. In small-town Canada one can hear the curling rink a block away as teams call out to each other in an attempt to make the perfect shot.
If you’re interested in seeing the game played close up, come on out to the Gibsons Curling Club any evening, Monday to Friday, at 7 p.m. You can see, and hear, The Roaring Game in action. Who knows, you may even want to try it. If you’re a golfer, you’ll be amazed at the similarities.
– Submitted by Ed Hill