What is Mixed Doubles Curling?

Team canada playing doubles curling at the 2018 olympic games in Pyeongchang
Team Canada playing doubles curling at the 2018 Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo by AP Photo/Aaron Favila and found on CTV news.

Doubles curling, also known as mixed doubles curling, is a fast paced game where the majority of play is to the center of the house. The first few rocks are crucial as you want to be the first to get to the button. Why is it called doubles curling you ask? Because a team is comprised of only two people, one female and one male.

History

Team canada taking doubles curling strategy at the 2018 olympic games in Pyeongchang
Team Canada playing doubles curling at the 2018 Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Photo by Aaron Favila / The Associated Press and found on Winnipeg Free Press.

The idea of mixed doubles curling came about in 2001, by Warren Hansen from Curling Canada, to be one of the four curling disciplines for the Continental Cup of Curling tournaments. 2008 marked the first World Mixed Doubles Championship in Vierumäki Finland, and since then has continued to be an annual event. Unfortunately doubles curling was not approved by the International Olympic Committee for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC. 2018 marked a big milestone for mixed doubles curling when it made the list of sports for the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Since the beginning, doubles curling has been in the shadow of standard curling because is was not as commonly known or played outside of competitions. It has since grown into one of the many popular disciplines of curling with events and leagues widely available.

Gameplay

Getting Started

A doubles curling team is comprised of 2 players, one male and one female. Only 5 rocks are thrown instead of 8. These 5 stones are picked by the team before the game begins. These can be any combination of stones, not just the first 5. One player on the team throws the 1st and 5th stones, (first and last) and the other throws the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stones (middle). Throwing positions can rotate each end during gameplay if the team members choose to do so.

Rock Placement & Set Up

Before each end of play begins, two rocks are set up at the other end of the sheet. One rock in the house and the other as a guard, both aligned perfectly in the center of the sheet. This is one of many unique things about doubles curling because in a normal curling game, you start with no rocks in play. One player from each team takes one of their rocks that was not chosen to be thrown, and places it in the set positions.

The team who didn't score the previous end, gets to choose where they want their rock to be placed at the beginning of the next end. If that team wants to keep hammer, their rock is placed in the back four foot ring of the house. If a team chooses to give up hammer and throw first, that team's rock is placed in the guard position, half way in the guard zone on the T-line. Learn more about the strategy of choosing a rock position in the strategy section. Your opponent then places their rock in the other position, whether that be the guard or in the house. For every end of play the rocks are set up in these positions, except for when a team calls a power play.

Doubles curling rock placement
Example of doubles curling rock placement and set up at the start an end.

How high the guard is placed from the house depends on how much curl the ice has. For instance, if the ice has lots of curl the rock would be positioned lower as it is easier to go around rocks. Whereas if the ice is straighter with not as much curl, the rock would be placed higher as it is harder to go around rocks. When you enter a doubles curling competition, or play in a league, all the information on rock placement will be given to you as it will vary with different ice.

Strategy

Positions

Team canada playing doubles curling
Team Canada playing doubles curling. Photo by © WCF / Richard Gray and found on World Curling Federation.

Since only two players make up a team, sweeping and skipping works a little differently compared to a 4 player team. The person delivering the rock can either watch the line of their rock (while the other member sweeps the delivered stone) or sweep their own rock after delivery (while the other member is skipping). Both players can sweep the same rock.

Sometimes the person skipping for person delivering the stone, will go to sweep the the rock once it has been delivered. This is all a matter of personal preference. I prefer having my teammate sweeping my rock as I deliver it. I’m good at visualizing where the broom would be placed and aim for it plus I don't like sweeping with my slider. People who are good slider sweepers may want to have a person in the house to hold the broom for them while they sweep their own rock.

Four Rock Rule

Doubles curling has a modified version of the free guard zone. No rock can be taken out until the fourth stone has been thrown, not even rocks that are in the house.

Blank Ends

If you blank an end in doubles curling, you don't keep hammer like in a standard curling game, you lose hammer. Because of this, blank ends don't usually help your strategy and aren't common in gameplay.

Rock Positions

In doubles curling, the team who didn't score the previous end gets to choose where their rock is placed at the beginning of the next end. Usually teams want the advantage of having last rock, but in some circumstances it can benefit your game to give up hammer. In the event that you have your draw weight down perfectly, and you want to get your rock on the button before your opponent, giving up hammer might be a good idea and would give you a better chance of scoring in that end. Do what you think would be the most beneficial to your game.

Powerplay

Another very unique play in doubles curling is the powerplay. This can be played once by each team during a game. A powerplay can only be called at the beginning of an end and when a team doesn't have choice of rock placement. It cannot be used during an extra end of play.

When a powerplay is called, the positions of rocks during set up is changed. Both rocks get moved to one side of the house, as chosen by the team that called the powerplay. The rock in the house is placed with the edge at the top of the Tee line and the guard placed covering the rock in the house so it's not visible from the hack.

A big part of doubles curling strategy is knowing how and when to use your powerplay. It can drastically change the strategy of the end and can be an advantage to the team who played it. Play is now to the side instead of the middle. People will play this differently depending on the score of the game. You can choose to draw around the positioned rocks, or to the other side of the house (known as splitting the house), or choose to guard the middle, and play around that. In a doubles curling game, the powerplay can be played offensively to score points and defensively in the game to prevent the opposing team from scoring.

Doubles curling powerplay
Example of a doubles curling powerplay with rocks moved to the left side of the sheet.
Doubles curling powerplay example
Example of a doubles curling powerplay with rocks moved to the right side of the sheet.

Curling Comparison

Here is a quick comparison showing differences between doubles curling and standard curling.

Terms Doubles Curling Standard Curling
Team: 2 Players 4 Players
Ends: 8 8
Rocks Thrown: 5 out of 8 8 out of 8
Pre-Positioned Stones: Yes No
Powerplay: Yes No
Blank an end: Lose Hammer Keep Hammer
Takeout Rule: Can't takeout any rocks before or on the 4th stone Can only takeout rocks in the house before or on the 5th stone
Always Mixed: Yes No

World Events

Want to watch doubles curling and see how it's played? Check out these world events to watch the pros play.

Curling World Cup

Curling world cup, doubles curling event host logo

www.curlingworldcup.com/events

Mens, Womens, and Mixed Doubles Curling.

  • First Leg: September 12th, 2018 in Suzhou, China
  • Second leg: December 5th, 2018 in Omaha, United States
  • Third leg: January 30th, 2019 in Jonkoping, Sweden
  • Grand final: May 8th, 2019 in Beijing, China

(Website streaming may not work in your area. Check your TV guide to see if games are being televised)