Height of the Dartboard
The height of both the bristle and electronic dartboard is set at 5’ 8” from the floor to the center of the bulls-eye always with the 20 wedge on a black segment and on top of the board in the 12 o’clock position. The steel tip dartboard comes with a screw to put in the center of the back of the dartboard. Usually there will be a mark or starter hole as to where to place the screw and should be located directly behind the double bulls-eye. This screw will sit in a special keyhole bracket that is attached to the wall, cabinet or backboard. This system lets the bristle dartboard rotate on the single screw while it sits in the bracket allowing for the rotation of the dartboard and number ring. Measuring the height of the board is much easier this way, as the official measurement is from the floor to the double bulls-eye allowing you to just measure the height of the bracket. Most electronic dartboards have keyholes on the back for hanging at the proper height
Distance of the Throw line - Steel Tip
The distance for throwing steel tip darts was standardized in the 1970’s for international competition and measures 7’ 9 1/4” from the face of the dartboard to the toe line not the wall. In order to conform to this standard, you first measure the height and hang the dartboard then drop a plumb line or string from the face of the dartboard to the floor then measure back to the front of the throw-line. An easier way to measure distance is to have someone hold the tape measure touching the double bulls-eye and stretching diagonally to the floor 9’7 3/8”. For those math wiz’, this is a right angle and the diagonal measurement is the hypotenuse (Pythagorean theorem). Always measure to the front of the toe line as everyone likes to stand on the line itself.
Distance of the Throw line - Soft Tip
The distance for setting up a soft tip dartboard is 8 feet from the face of the dartboard not the wall. In order to do this you first measure the height then drop a plumb line or string from the face edge of the dartboard to the floor then measure back to the front of the throw line. An easier way to measure distance is to have someone hold the tape measure touching the double bulls-eye and stretching diagonally to the floor 9’9 1/2”. Always measure to the front of the toe line as everyone likes to stand on the line itself.
All you need to play the game of darts is a dartboard, a set of 3 darts, a throw-line and a scoreboard or sheet of paper to keep score on. All other equipment is optional although it may enhance your game. Serious players, who have established a consistent stroke and have achieved a certain skill level, seek out specialty stores that allow a customer to try the darts before purchase, thus finding a set of darts that suits their particular playing style.
The two most popular dartboards used to play the game of darts are the ‘bristle dartboard” for steel tip play and the “electronic dartboard” for soft tip play. Both dartboards are divided into pie shaped sections numbered 1 to 20 with the center most section called the bulls-eye. There are two narrow rings traversing the dartboard in a circular pattern. The outer ring counts the number double score and the inner ring counts the number triple score. There are two sections to the bulls-eye; the outer ring is a single bulls-eye and counts as 25 points with the inner bulls-eye counts as a double bull or 50 points
Bristle dartboards are made of millions of fibers glued on their end called sisal, a grass like hemp grown in Africa and China. The main characteristic of a bristle dartboard is the “self healing effect”. This happens when a dart lands next to where the previous dart landed, the sisal is parted and closes the original hole. Because of this construction, a bristle dartboard, depending on use, can last a long time particularly in the home recreation room. The outer number ring on the bristle dartboard is removable. This feature helps to prolong the life of the board by allowing one to rotate the dartboard so wear on the most commonly used numbers is even. When rotating always keep the number 20 at the top and over a black section.
Electronic or soft tip dartboards have the same clock layout as a steel tip dartboard and are made up of hundreds of holes in each wedge, which is tapered to accept the plastic pointed dart. The electronic dartboards are convenient in that they keep score automatically for one player and up to as many as eight players. These dartboards have built in programming for a number of different games and can have as many as 24 to 100 games and variations depending on the machine and the level of technology it employs. Like bristle dartboards, one can find electronic dartboards in taverns and home recreation rooms.
Dissecting a dart
Darts are made up of four major parts: a point, a barrel, a shaft and a flight. The barrels are the main body and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Flights and shafts are replaceable and the various sizes and shapes help tailor the dart to an individual’s playing style. When a dart is thrown, air resistance and gravity affect the flight pattern. A properly balanced dart will fly true and track to the board with very little wobble.
Darts come in a variety of materials, weights and grips. The most common metals used in the production of darts are brass, nickel silver and tungsten. Brass is inexpensive and is perfect for the home recreational player and the occasional pub game. Nickel Silver has the same attributes of brass but is tarnish resistant. Tungsten is extremely dense, three times denser than brass & nickel silver, and is popular because of its weight to size ratio resulting in a heavier weight in a smaller mass. If two barrels, one made of brass and one made of tungsten, the same weight were compared you would see that the tungsten barrel is 3 times smaller than the brass barrel. These important features make tungsten the material of choice for the more serious dart shooter.
Steel tip darts are measured by weighing the point and barrel without the flight and shaft. Although darts are available in a wide range of weights (from 18 – 40 grams), the majority of players play with darts weighing 18 – 23 grams when using brass and 23 – 26 grams when using tungsten darts. The legal weight limit of your major overseeing organizations is 50 grams.
Soft tip darts are measured by weighing the entire dart including the barrel, flight and shaft. The weights being used to play soft tip darts are most commonly 16, 18 and 20 grams and are much lighter than their steel tip counterparts. Originally, soft tip darts needed to be light in weight because the electronic matrix in the vending machine was delicate and couldn’t withstand the impact of a heavy dart. The technology has been greatly improved over the years and the dart weights have increased steadily from the original 12 grams to the current top weight of 20 grams.
Dart Barrel Shapes
There are a number of barrel shapes that can affect your grip and flight pattern. The maximum length accepted, by the major overseeing organizations, of a dart for competition is 12 inches. Most darts don’t approach this length (most fall between 5 – 7 inches including flight & shaft) because if a dart were too long there would be excessive wobble making the dart difficult to control. When being manufactured, darts that weigh 25 grams or greater maintain a maximum length and increase in circumference instead of continuing to elongate when produced.
Dart Barrel Grips
Darts come in a variety of shapes and grips and is another way that darts can be customized to the individual. Knurling provides the most grip options with placement on the front of the barrel, the rear of the barrel, the entire barrel and innovative combinations of knurling and grooves like the Harrows Graflite. The various grip types allow the player confident finger placement that is both consistent and tactile.
The common grip styles include:
Retractable Point Darts
Moveable or retractable point dart sets have the added advantage of dramatically reducing bounce-outs and are available only in steel tip darts. These darts are specially made with the front end of the dart drilled out to except a collar and point with enough room for the point to act like a piston (moving in and out). This major innovation revolutionized the dart barrel and the industry when it was introduced over 30 years ago. The advantage happens when a dart hits a wire the point retracts and lifts slightly and the energy from the darts forward thrust forces the point past the wire into the board resulting in a scoring dart. Depending on the point design some darts, like the “Power Point”, will rotate on the point allowing for fewer deflections and tighter groups much like that of the “Top Spin” shaft.
Flights and Shafts
Shafts come in six lengths and coupled with various flight shapes allow you to fine-tune your dart set. Darts, when thrown, are affected by air resistance and the natural pull of gravity. In order to attain the trajectory and flight pattern best suited to your individual throwing style, one should experiment with the various shaft lengths and flight shapes to modify your dart. By doing this, you are modifying the dart to match your throwing style rather than changing your throwing style to accommodate the dart set. Typically, when your dart has excessive wobble, this can be corrected by shortening the shaft length.
Although there are many different shaft lengths the most common lengths used are the medium, short and extra short. These shaft lengths are the standards in the industry and are the lengths that will usually be found in any stores that carry dart supplies. There are in between sizes allowing for more customizing options and can be found in stores that carry a broad selection and cater to the serious enthusiasts.
Dart shafts are primarily made of aluminum or nylon and are available with a number of features: replaceable tops, adjustable lengths, extra-thin, EZ loading and rotating tops and by far the most popular added feature is the spinning shaft. The innovative spinning shaft top came as a major change in darts equipment 15 or more years ago with a needle shaft and a proprietary flight. In 1994 the “Top Spin” shaft took this concept one step farther by having the top of the shaft spin, rather than the special spinning flight, broadening its appeal by allowing any conventional flight to be used. The spinning top, while holding the flight, will rotate the flight out of the way when hit by an oncoming dart reducing deflections allowing for a tighter group resulting in higher scores. For example: if a dart is in the triple 20 when the next dart approaches and contacts the flight the flight revolves and the second dart slides in beside the first.
Similar to the various shaft lengths, the different shaped flights will have an affect on the aerodynamics of the trajectory of the dart. Flights are like the rudders on airplanes and boats and they help steer the dart to the board. There are 12 or more different shapes of flights and they all will affect your trajectory slightly or dramatically. A good starting place in choosing a flight is with the two most common shapes: “Standard” for steel tip darts and “Slim” for soft tip darts. A generalization is - the heavier steel tip dart needs a broader surface area to provide enough lift so the heavier dart tracks to the board and lands either horizontal to the floor or with a slightly upward angle. The lighter soft tip dart requires less lift and drag to make sure that when tracking to the board it lands horizontal to the floor and can find its way into the tapered hole. The steel tip player can put a severe arc on the dart trajectory to the board and the dart will still penetrate the sisal. A moderate arc on the trajectory of a soft tip dart thrown at an electronic dartboard would bounce out because of the angle of the surface holes on the board require the dart to be thrown on flat trajectory. The advantage of most electronic dartboards is that the machine will record the score even with the dart bouncing out.
Dart flights are made of plastic but there are various types, thickness and laminations that are esthetically pleasing. Most players enjoy choosing different designs, from the broad selection available.
Shafts and Flights breaking
The more proficient a player becomes, the more your flights and shafts will break. This happens because during the course of a game a player is throwing multiple darts at the same small target (bulls-eye or triple twenty). The goal to getting better at this game is to develop a repeatable throw that will produce a compact grouping of three darts at any given target. The skill of a player is demonstrated by the tightness of their group of three thrown darts thus the event of piggybacking or robin hooding of darts (when one dart follows an earlier dart and follows the flight and sticks into the shaft of the earlier dart). Don’t despair if you start breaking your dart parts, as this is a sign that your skill level is improving.
Because the point is plastic and the darts weigh less, fewer incidences of piggybacking occur. However, the plastic points on soft tip darts break with regularity. Plastic dart points are inexpensive and you can buy these at most sporting goods stores by the 100’s.
Gripping the dart
There are a variety of grips one can use to hold a dart and all vary according to each individual. If you watch accomplished dart players you will see some very unusual ways of holding the dart. Most people, when they pick up a dart, position their hands to form a very natural and comfortable grip. The most common way to hold a dart is to position your thumb underneath your fore finger with your middle finger holding the dart towards the front of the barrel or resting on the point. The pencil grip is also very popular and is naturally comfortable. Choosing a grip is a subjective decision and usually what feels most comfortable for you will work the best.
To be consistent, your body should be balanced and feel as natural as possible when standing at the throw line. The easiest way to achieve this is to have both feet flat and anchored to the floor with your foot against the throw line. It is perfectly legal to lean over the throw-line and some players take advantage of this and lean noticeably forward.
The goal is to create a consistent repeatable throw, and once you have established your foot position and your lower body is perfectly still, it is time to launch your dart. The only part of your body that should move when you throw is your arm. Throwing the dart is the same general motion as throwing a paper airplane. Your upper arm should be almost parallel to the floor with your forearm and wrist at a right angle. Next you draw back and with a forward motion, like gliding an airplane, follow through with your arm and wrist releasing the dart winding up in a finishing position pointing at the dartboard.
At first you will focus on the mechanics of the throw but eventually you should be concentrating on the target and letting the motion take care of itself. Have you ever taken a wad of paper and thrown it from a distance into a wastebasket? Most people have and when you do are you thinking of how your arm is moving and how far back you are bringing it and with how much force you are throwing it? Of course not, you do it by feel because the mechanics are inherent. You have thrown things all of your life. This will be the same when throwing darts after a few hundred throws – you won’t have to think about the throw; just concentrate on the target
General Rules of Darts
- Each turn consists of throwing three darts
- Both feet must be behind the throw line until the dart has been thrown
- Darts that bounce out by contacting the “Spider” or dividing wires do not score and cannot be re-thrown on a steel tip dartboard but if the electronic dartboard scores the dart it will count.
- Darts accidentally dropped can be picked up and played
- If a dart falls out of the dartboard during a turn, the dart is disqualified and the points it would have scored do not count (steel tip only)
- The point of the dart must touch the dartboard to be scored on a steel tip board but if the score registers on an electronic dartboard the score counts.
- The player always removes his/her darts from the board after their turn and the score has been recorded
Determining who begins the game
To determine who starts any game it is customary for each player to throw one dart at the bulls-eye with the closest dart deciding who will begin the game. This is referred to as “diddling for the middle” an English expression or throwing for Cork (another name for the bulls-eye). If both players score a single bulls-eye this is considered a tie and both players re-throw. The same holds true if both players score a double bulls-eye. If both darts are outside the bulls-eye then the player with the closest dart begins the game. This is the only time a dart from each opposing player remains in the board at the same time. When playing a friendly set of games against the same opponent, the loser of the previous game begins the next game. This is called “mugs away” and comes from patrons in the pub playing friendly games for a pint. The loser begins the next game, as the winner is busy drinking the spoils of his winning game hence bottoms up and “mugs away”. A coin toss can also be used to determine who will begin the game.
Steel tip – scoring is usually done by hand and written on a scoreboard or score sheets
Soft tip – This is where the soft tip game has the advantage; the computer programmed dartboard scores and does the math after each dart is thrown.
Steel tip - Darts that bounce out by contacting the “Spider” (a name given to the dividing wires as it looks like a spider’s web) are out of play and do not count.
Soft tip - Because of the physical make up of the dartboard, bounce-out darts are a little more frequent but players have the advantage of the electronic sensitivity of the matrix and bounced out darts record a score. The score that is recorded by the machine is considered correct and will count.
There are many different games that can be played on a dartboard. The most popular games being played today in homes, pubs, organized leagues and tournaments are the “01” family of games and “Cricket”.
In the United States Cricket seems to be the game of choice however all of your organized leagues and tournaments have multiple events with 301, 501 both as singles events or team events
Even though league & tournament play has equally as many ’01 games (301 & 501) in their format, cricket is the most popular game played in America both at home and in the pubs. Cricket is one game that has an element of strategy thus, if a shrewd approach is employed, a lesser skilled player, on occasion, may come out on the winning side.
The object of the game is to score three of each target number 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and three bulls-eyes. Scoring inside the triple ring counts as three and inside the double ring counts as two. A number is considered “closed” when three marks of that particular number have been scored. The first person to close all the numbers including bulls-eye and is either tied or ahead on points is the winner.
Numbers can be played at any time, but are usually played in descending order, starting with twenty.
The typical scoreboard will list all of the Cricket numbers that will be in play. Each dart that scores in an open number (any number that has not been marked for a score) is represented by a backward slash “ \ ” placed next to that number. A second mark is a forward slash “/” making an X. The third score is represented by a circle surrounding the X making this number closed or protected. If one scores in the double or triple ring that scores as 2 marks or 3 marks respectively.
Depending on the machine that is being used, the cricket marks can be three LED lights, a single light with three different colors and with some of the more sophisticated machines the full representation, with a series of lights, of the slashes, X’s and circle.
Once a player has closed a number (three marks) then points can be scored on that number if their opponent has not closed the number. Closing a number can be both offensive, to score points, or defensive, to prevent the scoring of your opponents points.
Ending the Game
If Player A has closed all of their numbers but has fewer points than their opponent, the game will continue until Player A has matched or bettered their opponents score or Player B closes the remainder of their numbers and maintains the higher or the same total points.
The object of the game is the first player to score three marks in each target number first, including bulls-eye wins. No points are involved. Although it is a much simpler game and may be viewed as a good game for beginners, it is basically a game of chase where the better player almost always wins.
301 / 501
The “01” family of games are generally all played the same way with the exception of the starting score. The object of these games is to have a starting number (301, 501,) and subtract your turn’s score cumulatively until you reach zero exactly.
The game 301 is popular as a league game and is often played as a singles match (individuals competing rather than teams). Because the starting total is low this game is played primarily double start, double finish. Double start means that before you start subtracting from 301 points you must first score a dart in the outer double ring. Once this is done the very next dart can be thrown directly at the twenty wedges. The double finish means that to reduce the score to exactly zero the winning dart must land in a double segment ( Player A has 32 points left – double 16 is the winning shot)
Most electronic machines allow you to select the game and variation you wish to play. In league play straight start (not requiring a double) straight finish is common. More skilled players can select straight start with a double finish (requiring the winning game shot to be in a double segment). For the most skilled players, you can select the challenging game of double start, double finish. The game of 301 is popular as a league game and is often played as a team game.
The game 501 is the game played in most professional and amateur tournaments and in social settings at home and the neighborhood pub. The object is the same as in all “01” games; the first to reach zero exactly wins.
To begin this game one can immediately shoot at the highest number and start scoring as this game typically begins without the requirement of having to first score a doubled number. In order to finish, the score must be reduced to exactly to zero on a doubled number. This is commonly known as straight start, double finish.
Most electronic machines allow you to select the game and variation you wish to play. This game is almost always played with a straight start but may be played with a straight or doubled finish. This is popular as a league and tournament game and is quite often played as a team event.
Scoring 301 / 501 Games
Scoring for the traditional steel tip game is done by hand and written on a scoreboard or a score sheet. Scoring ‘01 games are easy and will quickly sharpen your math skills especially subtraction. All numbers are in play but the most targeted numbers are the twenty and nineteen, the highest numbers on the board that will bring down the score. After the first round is thrown, the total score of the three darts is generally written down towards the outside of the scoreboard or score sheet with the remaining totals for both players written towards the middle. All subsequent rounds of darts are marked in the same way.
Scoring on an electronic dartboard has the advantage of the programmed computer recording and doing the entire math for you.
Busting is when you exceed the total you have remaining, reach zero without landing on a double or leave one point left (not possible to end the game as there is no double to finish on) When this occurs, your turn is immediately over whether you have thrown one, two or three darts and your score returns to what it was before your turn started.
When your total score is less than 200 points, there are mathematical combinations of triple, double and single numbers that a player can score to finish a game quickly. Only the most skilled players can achieve these combinations with any regularity. These combinations are referred to as “out shots”. There is a table (called an out chart) that can be used for suggested finishes and are available in two dart charts (winning with only two darts) or three dart charts (winning with three darts).
T – Triple, D – Double, S – Single, B – Bulls-eye
Reading the Out Chart of suggested finishes is easy when you understand the letters above and what they stand for. Many of these charts are posted on walls near the dartboard in pubs to aid league players in learning their out shots and to speed up play
There are many varied stories of how darts began, from Neanderthals practicing with spears to stories of the pilgrims bringing the game to America on the Mayflower. There are stories of archers in medieval England, needing winter practice, using arrows that had been cut down and finding the round bottom of a wine cask at the local tavern made a perfect target. Even Henry the VIII was reputed to have played the game and was given a very ornate set of darts by his one time wife, Ann Boleyn.
Darts, as we know them today, were around in the mid to late 19th century. It was after WWI that the game found a permanent spot in the local pubs and taverns, with even the King and Queen appearing and throwing darts for promotional purposes. This further enhanced and legitimized the sport and after WWII darts started to gain momentum in popularity. When the war ended, the game spread to America when the GI’s, stationed in England, brought the game back with them.
In the 1970’s the BDO (British Darts Organization) and the ADO (American Darts Organization) were established and leagues and tournaments were formed were held on both sides of the Atlantic. In the mid to late 1970’s the introduction and development of the soft tip vending machine arrived. By the 1980’s the soft tip dart game and their coin fed machines were promoted, in certain areas, by vending companies who organized leagues and tournaments. With the possibility of sharing in the monetary windfall and the added safety factor of plastic points, pub owners signed on and the game continued to grow in those heavily promoted areas.
Darts entered the mainstream in the 1990’s when the game was introduced to the general public through the sporting goods and department store chains. Today there are professional dart players who compete for thousands of dollars along with televised tournaments that are shown regularly in England. A few tournaments can be found on American television on ESPN and Fox Sports.
Today, the popularity of the game of darts has expanded beyond the pubs and taverns and now can be found in many home recreation game rooms and on college campuses making the game of darts a common pastime and a staple of the indoor games industry.