darts 101

People have different ways of having fun. Some people love unwinding in a nightclub with all the loud music while others will love a small intimate bar where they can sip their drinks slowly.

Most of these bars will incorporate darts and maybe a pool table. Playing darts is an art by itself and you need to understand the science and the risks to score successfully. This game which has its origin from archery is a very interesting game if you understand it.

Before understanding the game you need to understand the board.

The Dart Board

Dartboards are made of sisal fibers or boar bristle and cork.

A darboard has three main areas:

  1. Single area
  2. Double ring
  3. Triple ring

On the outermost edge of the board, we have the double ring. If you throw the dart and it lands on an area on this ring, then you get double marks.

The thin ring on the inside is known as the triple ring. Hitting any of the numbers within this ring will give you three marks.

The bull’s eye has both red and green area. The green is single while the red represents a double.

The other area is the single area. So the dartboard from the outside is arranged as the double ring then the single area, triple ring then the single area, green bulls-eye, red bulls-eye.

This 18-inch diameter board is divided into 20 sections.

The staples and wires on the board are known as spiders. No point is awarded when the dart hits any of the spiders. The dart bounces back and falls. Many manufacturers nowadays are having these spiders imprinted inside the board and going for an electronic one.

These boards are now getting popular because you can see the scores on screen and not manually. They have a sensor that does this.

The Dart

The darts have four main parts:

  1. Point
  2. Grip
  3. Shaft
  4. Flight

The point can be fixed or movable. It is the part that hits the target on the board.

The shaft is the part which the player uses to hold before throwing the dart. It is designed to help the player get a good grip. The shaft can be made of either aluminum or plastic. The plastic one tends to crack when it is hit very hard on the board. These days there is a spinning one that spins when thrown, to prevent it from getting damaged.

The grip is the part after the tip. This is the part for holding which is very good for a better control.

The flight is the fin-like structure at the back side of the dart. It serves the purpose of ensuring the dart sails smoothly in the air towards its target by giving it a perfect drag.

First, you need to understand how the dart flies. A dart travels along a parabolic curve. How powerful the dart is thrown is what determines whether this curve is going to be higher or lower.

Prepping for the game

The dartboard should be positioned on the wall in a way that it is going to be 5ft 8inch above the floor. There has to be a marking line for every participating player (referred to as the toe line, throw line or oche). It should be drawn on the ground, 7 feet and 9.25 inches from the face of the dartboard. This distance is however rounded over in most matches when it is not an official tournament.

dartboard setup

When learning how to play darts there are a number of basic things about the game that is going to help you score well. There are a number of techniques and arts of holding, throwing and manipulating the darts.

Standing Posture

You cannot neglect the standing posture and it’s the first thing that will set the basis for your winning. Imagine there is an imaginary line between the bull’s eye of the dart towards the line of throwing. Make sure that you start throwing from your position from that line.

dart throwing stance

Stand in a way that between your two feet there will be a shoulder’s apart distance. The front foot should be able to bear more weight than the back foot. This is going to improve the accuracy and for a better balance. Ensure though that you don’t lean too much forward as to hurt your back. By rigorous practice, you are able to find your perfect balance position.

Gripping Technique

After you have established a good standing position and a way to put your body, next is how you grip the dart before throwing it. There is however not a writer on the wall kind of rule when it comes to this. It highly depends on the finger positioning that you find comfortable and the dart’s barrel.

dart grip

Ensure that the tip is facing upwards. Do not make the grip so tight as it might make the tip to face downwards. This will hamper the accuracy. It also shouldn’t be too loose though. A good illustration is a way you hold a potato chip. Not too tight to crush it but still firm enough to hold it. Make a straight line with your eyes from the tip of the dart and your aim before releasing the dart. Do not press it hard before realizing. Ensure you keep your free fingers not too close to the dart. This reduces the muscle strain on the other fingers.

Ensure you don’t touch the shaft or the flight of the dart. It is necessary to find the center of gravity. Place the dart on your palm and with the other hand slide it towards your fingers to hold it.

Throwing Technique

The way you throw is the most important aspect of the game. You don’t want to throw dart the same way you would a ball. Some throw the dart without even giving it a second thought. Some lean forward while others will go back and forth. Everyone has a different style of doing things but there are a number of basics that will come in handy if you trying to learn how to play darts effectively.

Here’s an example of two different pro dart players. Each has a different style, but both are effective.

dart throwing example

pro throwing darts

Here are some tips to find your throwing stance.

Align your body in a way that your hands, shoulders, and elbow remain in a straight line. This is very important to be able to gain a balance and aim for the target.

The elbow stays in position when moving the dart. You first move it backward and then at some point in the acceleration phase start to go up.

There is a misconception that the elbow should stay fixed during the throw. This is wrong.

A fixed elbow would mean that you will be forced to release the dart earlier. Don’t let your elbow movement be too much on the right or too much on the left. This may cause mechanical imbalance. Don’t have a very big variation.

Just a small variation is good depending on the personal preferences. Just like the long barrel of the rifle increases accuracy as compared to a pistol, the same does the long guidance of the dart. The elbow needs to be raised in the later phase of throwing.

The wrist movement is a highly discussed point as the opinions differ in most cases. Most of the pro players use the wrist snap. This is because it helps in acceleration.

Just like the whip, if you let our wrist to snap, the tip of our dart will move faster. You will be able to move the other parts of the system slower putting less force in your throw. This will help to improve your accuracy.

However, the wrist snap is not advisable for beginners.

This is just one more source of errors as it one more thing that you need to be controlled. You must be able to control how much you move it so that you don’t overdo it lest it will lead to more errors. Most experts and pros though use this wrist snap.

The shoulder is the only point in the entire process that should not change its position. This means that you must not move your body when throwing. The arm should be the only place where the throwing action comes from.

Make your throw as easy as swinging a hammer.

For a firm support, use your shoulder and use your hand and wrist to boost its speed. Make sure when extending your arm that your elbow goes to the optimum height.

This is going give it the necessary kinetic force to the dart.

The throwing hand can be described as a machine of 3levers that are attached to one another. That is 2 hinges with one joint attaching to a fixed point. The two attaching joints are the elbow and wrist while the fixing joint is the shoulder.

As you begin to throw the dart it is advisable to hold it sideways maintaining the right level. Do not sway or lean. This not only makes your target small but also makes it movable. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for you to hit the specific required target without missing.

A good throwing technique is one that is able to guide the dart to move along the parabolic curve. When accelerating this dart, you must ensure that it is guaranteed that the dart can continue in this parabolic curve even after it leaves the hand.

Aiming Technique

Aiming the dart to the required target will require different techniques. A good aim tops the list of what really matters. There are those who use the line of sight method. This has proven to be helpful in most cases. In this method you can either aim the target using:

  • The 1st or 2nd knuckle of the thumb of the hand that you are throwing with
  • The tip of the dart
  • The small finger of the hand you are throwing with.

It is taken as a lazy practice though to aim the target using either your right or left eye. Another technique of aiming is Identifying your dominant eye. You can simply identify your dominant eye by trying to throw the darts at the board by closing the each of the eyes separately. The eye that you feel difficult to close is the one you use to get the better results.

However, practice makes perfect. Like any other form of art and sports, practice is what will make you good at it.

It is, however, better to focus on getting a schedule of productive playing instead of taking very long hours playing. Playing every single move as though you are fighting for a tournament is also very important.

You can set a target every time before playing and when you get it then you can move to the next one instead of spending so much time there practicing further. It is the quality that matters and not really the quantity.

Scoring

The entire dartboard is divided into 20 sections. There are points ranging from 1 to 20.

As explained above in the dartboard; single, double and triple are again symbolized within the darts with the help of the spiders. Where the dart hits on the corresponding semi-circle will decide whether this point is going to be treated as single, double or triple.

However, the possible highest score that can be obtained is 180. This is by hitting the 20 point in the triple semi-circle region. It is known as Ton-eighty.

dartboard points

The phases of the throw

  1. Aiming

This is where you put your eyes, the dart and the target on the board in one line. Focus your eyes fully on the target. Not the dart or on your drink on the table. You can use the tips above or just aim naturally. Most darters will aim naturally but this doesn’t happen to every beginner. But make sure you aim.

  1. Backward move

With your eyes on the target, do this backward move but not too fast. Most of the time beginners are afraid of possibly losing their aim when they move backward. After enough practice controlling this will be easy. Most successful players must do this backward move. If you find it comfortable then move as far as possible. A typical error that occurs with this is not pulling back enough because controlling this is difficult. You need to sacrifice a lot of acceleration space and accuracy. This needs lots of practice and good practice at it to master this.

  1. Acceleration

This should be done naturally. It is not as crucial as most beginners think. Do not do it too fast or with too much force. Do the acceleration smoothly in one move and do this all the way. This is up to the follow-through. Remember to bring up the elbow. If you intend to do the wrist-snap, ensure your hand goes forward until the full extension of the entire arm in the follow-through.

  1. Release

This is expected to happen naturally. If you find yourself having a problem here then it highly likely there is a technical error. Do not do the follow-up or raising your elbows. This is the crucial time for the wrist snap. If you intend for it, this is the time to do it. The hand of the player must be at the correct angle to the forearm at this point. If this is traveled further, your dart will point down at the release point.

  1. Follow-through

Just like the pistol-rifle comparison earlier used. The best way to do the follow-through is to end-up with the hand aiming at the desired target. A typical error that occurs is to let the throwing hand fall down after the throw. Ensure that you keep the arm in a straight and slightly upward for a moment. You are able to get a feeling of follow-up quite fast.

As a beginner, you can keep your attention to the following: The dart is put in an aiming position on the intended target. The angle of movement is going to be increased during the backward movement but it reduces considerably during the accelerating part. When a dart is released from the hand, it is nearly horizontal but it points up a bit. At all times, when you find the dart facing downward during the throw then it is a bad sign.

One of the things that happen to beginners that do not occur to the pros and experts is the wobble. They are able to wobble considerably because:

  • Somewhere during the throw, there is a wrong movement of the arm. Or as said a YIP.
  • The flight-shaft system of the dart does not meet the aerodynamic requirements. Using a standard form flights and the shaft is the best way to troubleshoot this problem.
  • If the dart somewhere during the throw points downwards.
  • It is also highly likely if you point too much upwards.

Conclusion

These are just the basic tips of how you can successfully throw darts and score successfully. But for you to know how good you can be at playing dart then you have to take these lessons to practice. Ensure that you do a lot of meaningful practice to be good.

More resources for beginners: