Arlie’s Club and Sportsman’s Inn are a couple of community establishments that offer darts. | Unsplash/Afif Kusuma
Throwing is a common athletic movement and a common theme in many sports, though it varies depending on the sport. Overhand and sidearm throws, in sports such as baseball, softball (by fielders) and football, differs from the underhand pitch of softball hurlers, the two-handed overhead throw-in of soccer, and differs further from track and field events such as javelin, shot put and discus, Frisbee flinging or even the lumberjack sport of axe throwing.
Power hurlers that include Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Aroldis Chapman, Jennie Finch, Dan Marino and even discus Olympian Jurgen Schult were renowned for their arm strength.
However, not all games offering an aerial mode of attack are created equal. For example, the art of throwing darts successfully calls for finesse and touch. Akin to the old McDonald’s commercials of the 1990s when NBA legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird traded sinking difficult shots while calling “nothing but net,” a highly skilled dartist is adept at splitting the inner bullseye of a dartboard.
Beloved by many as either a competitive target sport and friendly pub game or both, darts boast an interesting historical background and global popularity.
Darts originated during the 1300s in England during the Late Middle Ages. Soldiers often threw arrowheads, spearheads and other sharp objects at the bottoms of overturned wine casks to pass the time while developing their throwing skills. The open end of a tree trunk with its circular rings emerged as another favored tossing target, and became, unwittingly, a raw, early template for the modern-day dartboard design.
In 1896, Brian Gamlin was credited as the inventor of the dartboard, implementing a 20-point numbering sequence for scoring. The English carpenter purposefully made the dart targets difficult to hit to delineate the assorted skill level of dartists.
In 20th century Europe, the sport flourished with the formation of the National Darts Association and the World Darts Championship, which drew more than 1,000 arrowers at the London competition in 1927. Ten years later, Queen Elizabeth I tested her slinging skills at a friendly darts game in Buckinghamshire, England.
An estimated 50 million people (including 17 million Americans) have played darts at least once or more according to current approximations. Particularly popular in the United Kingdom and the United States, the international appeal of darts extends to Germany, Spain, Russia, Australia, Africa, Japan, China and Dubai, among other locales.
Collectively, more than 1,200 dartists compete in either the World Darts Federation (655 members) or the Professional Dart Players Association (679 members).
All that is needed for anyone to play darts is a dartboard and three darts. The dartboard should be hung 5 feet, 8 inches from the floor to accommodate the eye level of a 6-foot thrower with the bullseye, while the oche (the line behind which the thrower must stand) should be 7 feet, 9 inches.
Darts is typically played between two opponents, with each player throwing three darts consecutively to complete a turn. Team competitions include four players or more.
Starting from the center of the dartboard, an inner bullseye (or doubles bullseye) is worth 50 points while the adjacent outer bullseye counts for 25 points. The other notable scoring areas are the triple ring circle and double ring circle, which logically triple or double the point value of that strip. For example, if a dart lands on 20 in the triple ring, 60 points are earned for that throw. Single-scoring strips with point values ranging from 1 through 20 are spaced in between the triple and double rings.
The most common darts played are 301 darts and 501 darts. In both those matches, competitors must reduce their points from either the starting score of 301 or 501 counting down to a tally of zero to claim victory. To successfully reach zero, a thrower must “double out” to close the scoring. For example, if 40 points remain and the thrower tosses a dart into the 20-point panel, two straight throws of 10 points apiece must follow in order to “double out” and secure a winning score of zero.
While darts is well received for its universality and simplicity, the sport is enlivened by its eclectic mix of regional and cultural variations. Cricket, Killer, Round the Clock, Fives, Dartball and Dart Golf are forms of darts played in different parts of the world. Beer Darts, aptly named for the drinking nature of the game, revolves around opponents throwing darts at each other’s beer cans. The result of how and where the beer can is hit with the dart determines the consequential drinking action of the non-thrower on that toss.
Adult beverages seem to be a common element, as several local taverns, bars, restaurants and billiards spots offer opportunities to play darts for fun, competition, or both. But darts is a recreation and sport that is fun and easy to play for enthusiasts of all ages, with no adult beverages required.
To find a league, visit the National Darts Association website, which lists a network of over 250 operators who own, place, service electronic dart games, and organize and manage dart league programs.
Another resource to find out more information about the sport is the American Darters Association.
Locally, Arlie’s Club (5430 Lake Isabella Blvd., Lake Isabella) and Sportsman’s Inn (11123 Kernville Rd., Kernville) are a couple of community establishments that offer darts.
For players who are interested in playing darts at home, boards can be purchased online, ranging in price from $10-$20 to several hundred dollars depending on the quality of the dartboard and darts. All you need to set up your own darts competition is a board, something to hang it from or lean it against, a few darts and a distance from the board of 7 feet, 9 inches. It is easy to learn the art of the dart.