The Oldest U.S. Curling Club is Right Here in Milwaukee

The Oldest U.S. Curling Club is Right Here in Milwaukee

What’s it like inside the oldest curling club in the United States?

It came down to the final stone. Thousands of miles from his Thiensville home, Nick McLellan had a chance to score some international respect at the world’s oldest curling club.

In celebration of its 350th birthday, Scotland’s Kinross Curling Club hosted a tournament – or, in traditional curling terms, bonspiel – this September, inviting teams from each participant nation’s oldest curling club. The members of the 173-year-old Milwaukee Curling Club got the call to rep the United States.

After a string of wins, McLellan missed his shot, ending his team’s run in the semifinals. But McLellan, 33, had to smile at the revelation that the world over, curlers are always going to act, well, like curlers. “Just the friendliest people,” he says. “Really nice, really outgoing.”

It was a love of this camaraderie as much as the game that motivated McLellan – a longtime member of the Milwaukee club – to spend a sleepy Saturday afternoon leading one of the “Learn to Curl” sessions at the club’s Cedarburg clubhouse just a week after his international excursion.

The three dozen or so newbies waddling across the ice had signed up for the day’s second Curling 101 class, evidence of the club still riding the post-Winter Olympics bump – a now routine spike in community interest that occurs every four years.

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The key to maintaining these new club members, veterans explained, is turning the sport into an event equal parts social and athletic. With weeknight adult leagues spanning all levels of talent and experience, it’s easy to sketch curling as a wintery, team-based cousin to bowling. Though true enthusiasts insist it’s much more.

Under the stewardship of President Jeff Steffek, the club continues to host postgame, inter-team hangout sessions. After matches, the four-person teams that just faced off sit down together over beer and potluck grub to discuss their match, their lives and their shared love of curling.

“This is a club. It’s not something where you come in, play your game and leave,” Steffek says. “If you observe the tables after the game, you won’t be able to tell who won or lost. It’s very friendly, and very sportsmanlike.”

For the roughly 300-person club, that’s what makes curling more than just a weird winter sport that’s fun to watch every four years.

“The Ice Men Cometh” appears in the December 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at or find the December issue on newsstands, starting Dec. 3.

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