It is generally agreed that curling was developed in Scotland in the 16th century. The climate in Scotland was colder then, and curling took place on the many marshes (since drained). Scottish farmers curled on the frozen marshes using “channel stones,” which were naturally smoothed by the water’s action. The principles of the game were similar to the modern game, although there were many differences in rules and equipment.
Scottish immigrants brought the game with them to North America, first to Canada around 1759, then to the United States around 1832. By 1855, curling clubs flourished in New York City, Detroit, Milwaukee and Portage, Wis. Curling in much of the rest of Europe developed in the 20th century.
Curling debuted as a medal sport during the 1924 inaugural Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France. It was not recognized as a medal sport again until the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The Pete Fenson rink made U.S. history by winning the nation’s first Olympic medal in curling at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.
Two developments in the history of the sport changed the modern game of curling to what it is today:
- standardization of the stone
- indoor, refrigerated ice
The modern stone is round, and about 42 pounds. Curling is played, for the most part, on indoor, refrigerated ice, which helps ensure a fast, consistent and predictable playing surface. These conditions have resulted in a sport that requires curlers to have a high degree of physical skill and mental toughness.
While the playing surface and equipment looks very different than it did in 16th century Scotland, the spirit of curling that evolved in the early centuries endures today. An excerpt from The Spirit of Curling explains: “Curlers play to win but never to humble their opponents. A true curler would prefer to lose rather than win unfairly ... while the main object of the game is to determine the relative skill of the players, the spirit of the game demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling, and honorable conduct.”