Get ready for the new five-rock rule next season

By Jon Mielke, U.S. Curling News columnist,

zone rule. Boring games of nothing but peels became a thing of the past and the skill sets re- quired of every player took a quantum leap for- ward. Offense became the name of the game. It took a while for everyone to adapt, but players and spectators learned to love it. Well, get ready for even more offense. Starting


with the 2018-19 season, World Curling Federa- tion rules change. Te current four-rock rule will become a five-rock rule. Under the new rule an opponent’s stones in the free guard zone may not be removed from play until aſter the fiſth rock of the end has been thrown. Canada has already adopted the new rule and it is expected that the USCA will do likewise. Similarly, it is expected that local clubs will follow suit. So, what will this change do to how games

are played? Well, it depends. As is the case with the four-rock rule, utilizing the five-rock rule will depend on the skill levels of the teams in- volved. For teams with inexperienced or more recreational curlers, the rule change should have little impact. If a team’s front-end players can- not routinely throw center and corner guards, come-around draws and ticks the change will not change anything. Te five-rock rule will generate more notice-

able changes directly related to the skill level of the teams involved. In more competitive league and bonspiel games and especially at compe- titions leading to national and international championships, expect more rocks in play, more finesse shots, fewer blank ends, and higher scor- ing games. TV viewers will like the change just like they enjoy mixed doubles – lots of things can happen and more big ends. Large leads will al- most never be safe. Te current four-rock rule is actually already

a five-rock rule for teams without the hammer. Te team with the hammer cannot start playing hits on an opponent’s free guard zone stones un- til it is throwing its third stone – the sixth shot of

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urling changed forever in 1993 when rules were modified to create the free guard zone and the related free guard

the end. Te new rule will not technically change things for the team without the hammer. But from an analytical standpoint, the biggest

beneficiary of the expanded rule will be teams that are behind on the scoreboard and have the hammer. Under the four-rock rule the team without the hammer can start peeling guards with its third stone – the fiſth rock of the end. Under the new rule they have to wait until they are throwing their fourth stone – the seventh shot of end. If the team with the hammer wants to generate offense, the new rule gives it a chance to do so. More guards typically lead to more scor- ing. Being behind and forcing the opponent to a single point will become even more important to mounting a comeback. Te five-rock rule has been in use in Canadian

Grand Slam of Curling events for several years but it will be new to most U.S. curlers starting next season. How to use it and how to defend against it will be an evolutionary process, but Canada’s experience suggests that the result will be more rocks in play, more offense, and fewer blank ends. Skips will have to think harder and everyone will have to make more shots. Curling fans will love it. Te one negative of the five-rock rule may

relate to more skip indecision and correspond- ing thinking time. Without a time clock, games may get longer. Clubs that do not already have time limits on league games may be forced to impose them. And as is already the case, there will be frustration on the part of fast-thinking and fast-playing teams that are anxious to get in eight ends before time runs out. Finding ways to penalize slow-playing teams may become more pressing. Our Grand Old Game continues to change. We

have gone from a no free rock rule to rules based on three-, four- and now five-rock free guard zone rules. Time clocks have been implemented and games have been shorted from 12 to 10 ends and eight-end games in competitive play may be just around the corner. Eighteen-second ice is a thing of the past for most clubs and lightning-fast ice has become common. Curling is now rou- tinely played in arenas on non-dedicated curling ice. Corn brooms are history and there are more

curling clubs in the world than ever before. Televised curl- ing has created curling fans out of people who will never set foot in a curling club. Te game is more fun to play and the skills de- manded of elite players are greater than ever. It was a fun time to be known as a curler

during this season’s Olympic and world events. Curlers and non-curlers alike approached me and wanted to talk about curling. I received texts and e-mails from people that I hadn’t heard from in years. Tanks and congratulations to all of the U.S. curlers who competed on the world stage. You made us proud and contributed more than you can imagine to the future of curling in the United States and even around the world. Hopefully all my readers will have a great

summer – maybe play in a summer ‘spiel! Until next time – good curling! Q

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