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Open House Successful

2011 September 12
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by KenPoklitar

Our open house on September 11th was very successful. We had 2 sheets dedicated to the many people who showed up to learn our wonderful game of curling. Thanks to Pat and Landon who were the primary trainers for the new curlers. Also thanks to the others who also helped including Dave, Dennis and Christina and anyone else I missed.

We also had a few practice games on the other 2 sheets of ice.

Next up is Learn To Curl on September 18th.

See some pictures here!

Austin Curling Center in the News

2011 September 12
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by KenPoklitar

Upcoming Curling

2011 September 7
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by KenPoklitar

We are having an Open House ($5 per person) on September 11, 2011 (9:30am – 11:45am). We welcome new and old curlers!

We will have a Learn To Curl ($20 per person) session on September 18, 2011 (9:30am – 11:45am)

Our Fall 2011 session of curling begins on September 25.

Board Members

2011 August 28
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by KenPoklitar

Congratulations to our newly elected board members:

Wayne Garman – President
Rob Klien – Vice President

Dennis Dunn, Buck Krawczyk, Ken Poklitar, Pat Popovich, Michelle Richter, Landon Russell, Randy “Melvis” Sabbagh, Uly Suchil

Only 2 Months to Curling

2011 July 10
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by KenPoklitar

Hope everyone is having a great summer. Can you believe that our curling season ended almost 3 months ago??!! The club’s board has been hard at work planning for the new season.

The following are the board positions for the 2011 / 2012 season:

    • § Vice President – Rob Klein
    • § Treasurer – Landon Russell
    • § Secretary – Michelle Richter
    • § Membership – Randy Sabbagh
    • § Communications and Web Site –Buck Krawczyk
    • § Special Events – Uly Suchil
    • § Pro Shop – Michelle Richter & Pat Popovich
    • § Competition – Ken Poklitar


  • § V My thanks to the past year’s board members who did not seek or were not re-elected to the board at the May annual meeting. This includes Bill McBeth, Christina Gilsbach, Darlene Barnes, and Zac Grantham. The strength of this club is its volunteers, and your efforts were very much appreciated.

Plans are well underway for the new season. The preliminary schedule starts with an Open House on Sept. 11. If you have any friends or acquaintances interested in curling, this would be the opportunity for them to give curling a try. An education and practice session is planned for Sept. 18, and the first league games would be on Sept. 25. The Fall season will run through to Dec. 18, with the Winter season starting again on January 9 and running till April 1. Games will be at the same time as years past, Sundays 9:30AM to 11:45 AM, at the Chaparral Ice facility on Anderson Lane. Watch your email for membership signup and more details.

For those of you in summer curling withdrawal, the club is looking to hold a practice session. This is tentatively planned for Sunday, August 14 from 9:30AM to 11:45AM. This will be an open ice session, so you can practice or pickup games. Pat Popovich is coordinating the event. It will require a minimum of 25 persons, so watch your email for sign up information.

Probably the most exciting development for the club this season will be the construction and opening of the Austin Curling Center (ACC). Anita and Dennis are working hard on making their dream a reality. Their target for opening is the Spring of 2012.

Another event in the planning stage is the 2012 Texas Open Bonspiel (TOB). Our club has committed to host this event, and if plans come together, it will be first major event held at the ACC. Ken Poklitar has accepted the position of bonspiel chairman. He has compiled a detailed list of activities and ideas for the bonspiel. This is a major event for our club, and will require much time and effort from the membership. There will be many opportunities to volunteer and help out with the event. Watch your email for the organizational meeting.

As always, please contact me if you have questions, comments, suggestions, or criticisms. I welcome your input. First rocks in the new season are less than 2 months away!!!!!

Curling in 2011

2011 January 3
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by KenPoklitar

Hope everyone had a good time over the Christmas & New Years holidays.

The curling club’s Winter season will begin soon with the first games on January 16. If you have not already done so, please let Christina know if you will be curling. Payment of $220.00 is due by January 9. This can be sent either to club treasurer, Landon Russell, or payment can be made on the club’s web site.

On Sunday, January 9, we will be holding an education session. This will be a chance for everyone to improve their curling skills, and I encourage all to attend. There will be sessions ranging from a Learn to Curl, Intermediate curling training, a practice sheet and an open forum sheet. Dennis will also be holding a session on stick delivery.

The charge will be $20.00 per person, and will be at our regular time from 9:30AM to 11:45AM. Pat, Zac and Landon are coordinating this session, so feel free to email questions or suggestions to them.

I will be handling the open forum sheet. I do not have any specific topics to cover, but instead will answer questions on any curling topics you want to discuss. Whether it is delivery, sweeping, strategy or rules, ask whatever you want and I will try to answer or demonstrate.

To help prepare for this, please email me ( any topics or questions you would like to cover. This will give me a chance to research and print out some reference information that I can hand out.

As a reminder, the Texas Open Bonspiel will be held in Dallas from April 29 to May 1. Watch their web site ( ) for details. The entry form should be posted sometime early in the new year. Last year the bonspiel filled up, so get your entries in early.

On another note, we recently heard that one of the people involved in the founding of the Lone Star Curling Club, Alex Legault, passed away in a traffic accident recently. Although Alex has not been involved with the club over the past few years, his efforts during the early years of the club were very helpful to get our club going.

As always, feel free to email suggestions, questions or ideas. All the best in 2011 and see you on the ice!!

Reading the Ice

2010 October 12
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by KenPoklitar

As a curler who grew up playing on curling club ice, it was a learning experience to adjust to curling on arena ice. Nothing else can quite generate more ice slapping, looks of bewilderment and frustration as arena ice. It is quite common to hear comments such as “what the h*** happened to that shot ??!!” or other colorful collections of adjectives to describe the wild things arena ice does with our shots. As skips, we urge our team members to hit the broom, but it is quite another thing to know exactly where to put that broom. In this column, I will elaborate on some tips for skips to handle some of the unpredictable ice conditions we find playing on skating ice.

First of all, skips should never assume that the ice surface is level. Playing hockey does not wear down the ice evenly. The majority of hockey action is played down the center of the ice, so it tends to get worn down the center more than ice near the boards. Also, a Zamboni does not have the capacity to level the ice to the ideal that curlers want. This is why we have special curling devices to prepare club ice. Wet cuts or dry cuts, a Zamboni will leave hills and valleys all over the ice.

Secondly, the hypothesis that a rock with the correct turn will curl an average of 2 to 3 feet is just a theory when it comes to arena ice. Don’t assume the rocks will do this under arena conditions. Rock will fall back, stay straight, curl 6 feet as they slow down, swing back and forth and many other unexplainable things. This is a great leveler of competition, as arena ice can make experienced curlers look quite ordinary until they get the hang of arena ice.

As a skip, one of the key things to do is make sure you carefully watch the path of every shot, especially during the initial ends. I am continually amazed at how some skips seem to be more concerned with running out and sweeping the rocks, rather than with learning how the rock moves. Learn from both your shots and your opponent’s shots. Devise a system to memorize what the shots do in various paths and with various weights. I find that crouching down in line with the path of the rock as it comes down the ice gives me the best view of its movement.

This habit can become an advantage. I have found that after I was curling on arena ice, I became much better at reading the ice. With club ice, you can generally trust the ice, as rocks will usually follow the theoretical path. With arena ice, you have to watch every shot, because you will learn something almost every time. Last season, when I played at the Rotary Can-Am bonspiel in Peterborough, ON, we won some games that we had no business winning because I picked up things about the ice that my club ice opponents did not catch. I attribute this to the habit of closely watching arena ice, as it sure wasn’t due to my shot making.

Another thing you can do is to use alternating ice on draw shots as a method to check different parts of the ice. Never assume that both sides of the ice react in the same way. It is more likely that the left side of the ice reacts nothing like the right side of the ice, or the center of the ice for that matter. If there have been a number of inturn draws toward the center, call an outturn draw from the other side. It will give you a chance to gauge what the ice does from the other side. For a crucial shot, you don’t want to be guessing at what the ice does.

Another thing to watch for is the dreaded Zamboni tire track. Our ice operators at the Lone Star Curling Club like to resurface the ice by driving in circles from the boards in. This works fine for hockey ice, but it results in Zamboni lines running along the curling sheets. If you can see the tire tracks on your sheet, it will have a definite impact.
Zamboni tracks will cause a ridge and a run. The ridge will tend to cause rocks to either not curl over edge of the track, or to sit at the ridge until they slow down. If a shot gets onto the Zamboni track, it will tend to stay there. You can use these characteristics to your advantage, as long as you recognize what they will do.

Another odd characteristic to look for is the amazing finish. Your draw shot stays straight or falls back for 95% of the running distance, and then curls 6 feet in the last 10 feet. This is actually fairly common on arena ice. As the rock slows down, friction between the ice and the rock increases, causing the curl motion to have more effect. Combine this with a ridge or Zamboni track, and you have the makings of a dramatic hook. This is great if you want to come around guards. But keep in mind that the takeout weight rarely displays this characteristic. Heavy draws or hack weight are usually the only ways to get at a rock that follows this path.

Watch for dead spots on your sheet. This can be from spots where the Zamboni blade skipped up, where the pebble was missed, where water dripped from the ceiling or where the ice gophers decided to come up ( OK, that only happens in Saskatchewan ). Whatever the cause, this can cause a rock to stop dead, lose or change turns, or to dramatically slow down. Remember these spots, and avoid them when you call a shot. On the other hand, they can also be used as a permanent guard, if you can draw around them.

With arena ice, you can also get into the situation where some sheets, typically the ones closest to the boards, have such a fall that they only curl one way. In Pittsburgh, the ice fell from the boards toward the center. In Austin, the end sheets tend to fall toward the boards. Either way, it makes for difficult curling. I haven’t found any good method to handle these other than holding the broom around the blue line, and hope the rock stops in the house before it goes out of play. Working with the arena ice makers is a whole different topic, and one I know little about. Making curling ice always reminds me of some form of black magic.

For strategy, tricky spots on the ice can also be used to your advantage. If you can get one of your rocks to a tricky spot in the house, it can be as good as having two guards in front. You may have to use an angled tap back, hit & roll or some magic words to get it there, but once in place, it has always amazed me how some rinks waste so many shots trying to hit it. And remember if the roles are reversed, don’t waste several of your shots at an opponent’s rock at some spot in the ice that is next to impossible to get at.

Calling ice for arena curling is much more an art than a science. And because the ice can change with every Zamboni run, it is hard to spot any trends. However, through careful observation, and by adjusting your strategy, it is possible to become reasonably proficient at calling the correct ice for your shots.

Lone Star Curling in the News

2010 March 13
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by KenPoklitar

The Vancouver Olympics brought curling into the spotlight.  The Lone Star Curling Club was lucky to be on the receiving end of some of this fantastic media coverage.

Olympic Open House

2010 March 8
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by KenPoklitar

The Lone Star Curling Club hosted two Learn to Curl Open House sessions in honor of the Vancouver Olympic Games.  At our first open house on Feb. 28, the last day of the Olympics, we had 410 people take the ice for their first curling lessons.  Club members arrived by 8:30 a.m. to get ready for a 9:30 start.  By 9:00 the waiting area was completely full. By the start of our session at 9:30 the lines were literally out into the parking lot.  We had 10 hacks set up and we were taking 100 people at a time onto the ice for a quick 20 minute lesson.  Rumor has it approximately 100 people or so left because of the long lines.  It was a fantastic event, one surely not to be repeated again the following week.  Just to be on the safe side we advised interested curlers to please arrive early for the second open house on March 7.  Again, by 9:00 the line was out the door.  We broke the previous weeks headcount and got 452 people on the ice!  Our “Olympic Mini-League” filled up in record time.  We are thrilled to have introduced the fabulous sport of curling to hundreds of Austinites. If you are interested in learning to curl, please send an email to and we will get your name on the mailing list to receive updates about future learn to curl opportunities.

A HUGE thank you to all of our club members who helped make these events such a success, it would not have been possible without all of you!

The Hitting Game

2007 September 12
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by KenPoklitar

There are a number of different types of shots in curling. However, none seems to get as much attention as the take out shot. There is nothing quite like the sound and feel of a rock solidly striking another rock. And as anyone who has played me has seen, I love to hit, especially on those days where I can’t seem to find the draw weight. As an old skip told me: “When in Doubt, Take it Out” ( No, that is not a Canadian accent ).

As attractive as the shot sounds, mastery of the takeout takes time, and can be the source of much frustration, broom slapping and colorful adjectives. Yet it is a key aspect of strategy. You will encounter many situations where the best option is to take out the opponent’s rock. As well, the complications we face with arena ice make this a shot to use with discretion.

For example, suppose you have 3 rocks in the 12 foot, and your opponent draws into the middle of your rocks. If you can only remove the shot rock, you have a chance of counting up to 4.

There are three things required to successfully make a takeout shot:

  • The skip must give the correct ice.
  • The shot must have the correct weight
  • The shot must be on the broom

These needs aren’t much different than other shots. However, if any one of them is off, the shot is normally lost, and typically the rock will sail merrily through the house.

For the skip, calling the correct ice on a takeout shot has a couple of considerations. When a rock is thrown with heavy weight, it curls less than a draw shot. This is because the faster speed reduces the friction of the rock with the ice, and the rock’s curl motion has less effect. You must almost always give less ice on a takeout than on a draw shot.

The other aspect is predicting the takeout weight that members of your rink will throw. You will get very little curl on a “barrel weight” takeout. On the other hand, a light or “hack weight” takeout will curl almost as much as that of a draw.

Consistent takeout weight is critical. Nothing can be more frustrating than inconsistent weight. The first takeout shot wasn’t hard enough, so you give more ice on the second shot. However, the thrower also ups their weight. The result is the rock sails through the house without touching the target. Communication is the key. Tell them if you want more weight, or if you want them to throw the same weight.

For open takeout shots, I encourage members of my rink to always throw a weight they feel comfortable with – i.e.: they don’t throw themselves off the broom by throwing too hard. You also want them to try to be consistent with weight. If you know that your lead throws a light takeout, you can give her more ice than your third, who throws much harder.

Picking the ice on our arena sheets at times can be akin to black magic. There are ridges and falls, Zamboni tire tracks and skate valleys. If the ice is too tricky, you can waste rocks throwing a takeout. Closely watch your own and the opponents rocks in each area of the ice so you get to know what the shots will do.

Hitting the broom, although important with other shots, is critical to a takeout. For a draw, being 6 inches off with house weight will usually result in a playable rock in the house. However, a 6 inch miss on a takeout is usually a lost shot. As opposed to draw shots, with a takeout, there are very few chances of a “Plan B” shot.

Encourage your members to not use the dreaded arm push on takeout shots. Once a person is in their slide, that extra push usually causes the body to also move. Hitting the broom with an arm push is very questionable. Instead, the thrower should use the same form as a draw. They should release the rock sooner, and if needed, push harder from the leg in the hack.

Sweeping also plays a role in takeout shots. Especially if they sweep it early, it can be quite amazing how straight two good sweepers can keep a takeout shot. For sweeping, ensure your sweepers know it is a takeout shot – this is another good reason for sweepers to pay attention to the game.

As opposed to a draw, where the sweepers should judge the weight, a takeout is all dependent on the skip for calling sweeping for the line of the rock. I find it works best to crouch down behind the target rock. Closely watch the rock for movement. If the line is getting close to the target, holler for the sweepers.

For new curlers, be conservative in calling takeout shots. Consistent weight and hitting the broom, at the same time, can be difficult skills for new curlers to master. On my rink, I try to watch how each new member is developing, and once they are hitting the broom fairly well, I will call a few takeouts to see how they do.

From a strategy standpoint, the takeout game is a great tool to have at your disposal. In a bad end, it can reduce the opposition’s score and keep you in the game. If you have the lead, you can try to minimize the rocks your opponent has in the house. And if there are two or more of your opponent’s rocks closely positioned in the house, a “double” hit can turn the tables on an end.

A hit and roll can also be a very useful shot. The shot rock is open, but there are guards in front. If you can hit the rock a bit off the nose, and then have it roll behind cover, your opponent will have major difficulties trying to get at your rock. On our dreaded arena end sheets, a hit and roll in the house can become a shot that is impossible for the opposition to remove.

There are a couple of shot calling pointers to keep in mind with takeouts. One is known as “jamming”. A “jam” occurs when you hit the opposing rock, but that rock hits another rock in the house and stays. This can end up worse than a missed shot. If there are rocks behind the target, make sure there is a path to get the rock out. If not, a takeout shot is probably not the best choice.

A second caution is the position of your own rocks. If your rock is too close to the target, make sure the risk is worthwhile. A clean miss is one thing, but it’s much worse if you end up taking out your own rock.

The takeout shot is a key element of curling. Work on mastering your skills, and it is an excellent weapon for the game. And remember, that a solid takeout shot feels great !!