Free Guard Zone
The Free Guard Zone (FGZ) rule, a relatively recent addition to curling, was added in response to a strategy of "peeling" opponents' guard stones. A team in the lead would often employ this strategy during the game. By knocking all stones out, the opponents could at best score one point, if they had the hammer.
Also, the team with the hammer could peel rock after rock, which would blank the end, keeping the last rock advantage for another end. Even though a sound strategy, this made for an unexciting game. In 1993/94 a modified FGZ was adopted where the first three rocks of an end were not allowed to be removed until the fourth rock and then in 2003/04 the present four rock FGZ was adopted.
Generally speaking, this rule allows for more rocks to be in play during an end and allows the spectator to become more interested and involved in the strategy of the game. The Free Guard Zone rule is now played in almost every league, bonspiel and championship. To understand its impact on the game, let's understand the rule itself.
Rule 12 (1) Defines the FGZ. The free guard zone is the area between the hog line and the tee line, excluding the house. In other words, a rock that comes to rest past the hog line, but entirely outside the house and entirely ahead of the tee line is in the free guard zone.
Here are a couple of interesting examples that may arise during the course of a game to determine if a rock is in or not in the FGZ. A stone which comes to rest biting or in front of the hog line after making contact with a stone in the FGZ is considered to be in the FGZ. A stone which comes to rest outside the house but biting the tee line is not considered to be in the free guard zone.
An explanation of the course of action to take if an opposition rock(s) is removed from the FGZ is reviewed in Rule 12 (2). It states that any stationary stones(s) belonging to the opposition located in the FGZ shall not be removed from play by the delivering team prior to the delivery of the 5th stone of the end. When an opposition rock is removed from the FGZ before the 5th stone of the end, the delivered stone must be removed from play and any other displaced stones are replaced as close as possible to their original position. However, you may remove your own stone from the FGZ providing you do not cause an opposition stone to be removed from play in the FGZ (Rule 12 (4)).
Rule 12 (6) deals with measuring a rock to see if it is located in the FGZ. After the delivery of each of the first three stones of an end it is the responsibility of the skip of the team who is about to deliver to ensure agreement with the opposing skip as to whether or not any of the stone(s) in play have come to rest in the FGZ. If they cannot agree, they shall make the determination by using the six foot measuring stick. If the position of another stone(s) hinders the use of the six foot measure, they may reposition the stone(s), complete the measurement and replace the stone(s) to its original position.
There you have it - everything you wanted to know about the "Free Guard Zone" but were afraid to ask. A complete PDF version of all rules can be found at CCA Rules of Curling for General Play