Darts, a short History

It is thought that darts first began in medieval England. The theory is that teachers of archery cut off the arrows and had their students throw them at the bottom of a wine barrel. The students, who were actually soldiers, enjoyed the game so much that they carried their makeshift dartboards to the pubs with them in the evening and played.

The game progressed and the dart became smaller and the game of darts became a big hit in local pubs around Britain, with lots of different rules and variations depending on what area of the country you were in. Indeed “Manchester dart boards are still used in some areas of Manchester they are smaller and often referred to as a “log end” dart board.

Just about everything that came to America is attributed to the Mayflower voyage. The legend is that they were played aboard the Mayflower on the long voyage. They caught on after the pilgrims arrived and played them whenever they could find the time. So Darts had come to America, where it was played often, and the Widdy darts company, even developed a uniquely American dart board. Meanwhile the British spread the game further in their empire. However, there is evidence that the Indians had a form of this game long before the white men came to America.

And then in the 1980’s came television, and that brought in the larger Sponsors and the game suddenly became very popular and now had money for big prize money. It also helped enormously when John Lowe, a legend in the darts world, got his first televised 9-dart checkout. It caused a sensation at the time, not just because of the feat itself, but for the enormous amount of money he made by doing it. A sponsor had put up £100,000 ($175,000 at the time) for anyone that could do it. That was John’s biggest payday at the time (1984)

Then came the war of the darters in the 1990’s and the game split into 2 camps, the BDO and the brand new PDC, the Professional Darts Corporation who promised, and have largely achieved, to take darts truly International and have staged tournaments all over the world, hence the Desert Classic in Las Vegas.

The old bulky Brass Darts have now largely been superseded by the Tungsten dart, as tungsten is denser than brass, the darts can be made smaller and especially thinner, which make close groupings (hopefully in the treble 20 ring) easier.

And the Dart boards? They have also come on leaps and bounds especially in the last few years. Electronics have arrived; the wooden dart board gave way to the bristle dart board (which still gives the most satisfying thud when the dart hits the board in my opinion), which now is giving way to the electronic dart board. These new boards are simply technological marvels; they can even keep score for you including Cricket scoring, with X and O leds and the score on the electronic scoreboard and can be programmed to shout abuse if you have a poor throw. One of the latest boards, the Halex electronic, has a Laser to indicate the toe line. Gadget City! Well, darts has come a long way from throwing arrows at an archery target!

Finally, in 2005 UK Sport officially recognised darts as a Sport and International recognition soon followed. The image is also now being cleaned up, gone are the beer glasses and cigarettes, and especially in the PDC tournaments, the guys have really cleaned up their act. Gosh, it is even rumoured the game could be a demo sport for the Olympics! If and when that happens the game will truly have arrived, those archers don’t know what they started.