House Call: Get a Grip

A good grip combined with a positive release can work wonders for accuracy. If you find yourself over or under rotating stones, flipping the line in or out, having inconsistent curl or weight control, not being able to properly follow through, or missing the broom completely, you just might have a release problem.

A good grip at the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier (Photo Michael Burns)

Please keep in mind having poor balance or line can contribute to a sub-par release. Sometimes if you fix the balance or line issue, the release problem goes away on its own. If you’re at the point where you feel solid and straight in your slide but something still isn’t right it’s time to take a closer look at the bitter end of your delivery. If you can’t get in with a curling instructor for a lesson, here are some things to try that will help make you an even sharper shooter. 1. When you grip a stone keep your fingers together. This is important because it’s the wandering digits that often end up causing problems. You’re not having tea with the Queen so keep your pinky in check! If your fingers aren’t splayed you’re not going to catch the handle on them when you let go causing the rock to be flipped in or out. 2. Grip the middle of the handle at the second joint in your fingers. This gives you an even amount of control over the handle. 3. Keep your wrist up nice and high. Having your wrist down too low gives you too much control over the stone. You want to eliminate as many variables that could go wrong as possible. You lined up in the hack, you slid out nicely, now just let the rock go, don’t try to second guess your line at the last minute and steer with your wrist. 4. Place the side of your thumb on the other side of the handle, never the pad of your thumb. Again, the pad of your thumb gives you too much steering control. Trust that you got out the broom just fine and let go. DO NOT GET CUTE!

Getting a good grip at the 2012 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Photo Andrew Klaver)

5. Start the turn at either 10 o’ clock or 2 o’ clock and release at just about noon. This will get you a consistent amount of rotation. At the Brier and the Scotties they might be worrying about different releases for different shots, rocks, or ice conditions. We are not at the Brier, nor are we at the Scotties. Refer back to #4 and DO NOT GET CUTE! 6. When you let go of the stone keep your fingers together and your hand should come up in front of your face as though you’re going to shake somebody’s hand. You should be able to look down your hand once you’re released and split the broom – or that’s what we’re working towards, anyway. 7. Follow through with your release. Hold up that hand and finish that slide. You wouldn’t just drop a golf club after touching the golf ball would you? No… I hope not. You have to follow through. The same is true in curling. 8. Let go of the stone before you start to lose momentum in your slide. If you feel a hitch and find you consistently have to shove the rock at the end of your delivery to get it down the ice, you might be hanging on too long. There is no law that says you have to release just before the hogline. I’ve met some very accurate throwers who release while they’re still sliding through the house. As you improve you will likely start to release later but this will be without having to push with your arm at the end. Play around with it until you find the perfect release point for you. These are just a few ideas to get you on the road to having a great grip and release. Release is a delicate fine-motor skill. If you keep working at it and focus on what a clean release feels like, you will find success.

Jeff Stoughton follows through on a delivery (Photo Michael Burns)