Five Rock Rule

In one of my first posts on the rules of curling, I wrote about the Free Guard rule.

Like so many things, there is a history, and history did not always have the rule.

The first version of the Free Guard rule was tried in Canada in 1991.  Instead of a "zone" the rule simpy said that the first four rocks could not be taken out of play.  They most definitely could be moved.  The "Howard Rule" had been used by the Russ Howard rink as a practice drill.

It proved popular because it made it impossible to play a pure take-out game, where one team put a rock in (or near) the house, and the other team promptly took it out. 

The rule change made the game more interesting to watch, and more fun to play.

The Free Guard Zone was added to the rule and used in the 1992 Olympic Bonspiel.

Canada opted initially for a three-rock rule: the first three rocks delivered could not be removed from the Free Guard Zone, while the rest of the world decided on four rocks.

Which brings us to the current controversy: The Canadian Grand Slam of Curling is experimenting with the Five Rock Rule.

Controversy because the team with the hammer gets three "protected" stones, while the other team only gets two.

So far, they've given it a try at one Grand Slam event, and the feedback is generally positive.

That's one of the things that make it interesting: the game we play today is recognizably the same as the one played at the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1850, but it's also quite different -- better ice and better equipment make play far more consistent, and the rules have evolved to keep the game interesting.

Four or Five?  We'll see.

Posted January 2, 2012