HISTORY of the GAME
The game is quaintly referred to as the tossing of the arrows and more distinctly known as a game of skill. In some countries, the governing bodies have taken the initiative to have darts declared a sport, while in others, it is less culturally accepted and still considered just a game to be played in the local pub or at home. Regardless, the game at its grass roots level began in England and has always been known as a workingman’s game. It is a relatively inexpensive pastime, in which setting up the equipment requires a small amount of space and special uniforms or padding is not required. Anyone can play regardless of age, size, and gender, and physical attributes have no effect on whether a player can be successful.
It is a game that can be played by serious players at a very high level as well as casual players in living rooms, garages, or basements. In the early 1900s, some considered darts to be a game of mere chance. At this time, betting was allowed on games of skill, but was not allowed on games of chance. A local inn owner was brought before magistrates because he was allowing betting on dart matches. Because the magistrates considered darts to be a game of chance, the inn owner brought in a local player to prove them wrong. The magistrates then declared that darts was, in fact, a game a skill and betting was then allowed and has been allowed ever since.
When it comes to determining the age and origin of the game of darts, it has been said that the game began as a contest between bored soldiers during their breaks from battle. The soldiers threw short spears into the upturned ends of wine barrels, similar to the act of knife throwing. As any competition progresses, more defined targets become a requirement to determine who has the most skill. It was said that this led to the use of the slice of a tree trunk as a target, as the natural rings of the tree made great scoring surfaces. Tree trunks also had radial cracks that would appear as the wood dried out; these would split the surface into different sections. As time passed and technology progressed, so did the creativity of players.
The missile (or dart) used evolved from a barrel-shaped piece of wood about four inches long with a metal point stuck in one end and feathers on the other to a patented all-metal barrel in 1906. The toeline used in the game is called an “oche.” It is the marker on the floor, set a specific distance from the dartboard and the players stand behind this line to throw their darts at the dartboard. It was noted that when the game of darts was standardized in 1920, the word listed in the tournament rule book was “hockey,” which is derived from an old English word “hocken,” which means “to spit.” The rule book goes on to further explain that there were spitting competitions held in English pubs and there is a theory that the “hockey line” was determined by the length that a given player could spit from standing with his back to the dartboard. The word then progressed to “oche,” with a silent H.
Some time during the last years of the nineteenth or the first fews years of the twentieth century, wireworker Thomas Buckle of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England devised the numbering of the dartboard which is recognized around the country and around the globe today as 'standard'. Buckle had in his possession a London 'Fives Board'; a dartboard comprising of twelve segments numbered (from top and clockwise) 20, 5, 15, 10, 20, 5, 15, 10, 20, 5, 15, 10. The wireworker toyed with the board and then expanded it to twenty segments reading clockwise from the top 20, 1, 18, 4, 13, 6, 10, 15, 2, 17, 3, 19, 7, 16, 8, 11, 14, 9, 12 and 5. The board was marketed locally and sold so well that it eventually became known as the 'Yorkshire' or 'Doubles' board.
During the subsequent decade or so, the board was 'exported' to London where a treble ring was added, but the numbering sequence remained the same. In 1924, the newly formed National Darts Association (NDA) declared the board and it's numbering to be standard. It was adopted by many dart leagues, but only became truly standard in the 1970s in the UK. After World War II, the Buckle design did find it's way across the pond to the USA and this led to the establishment of numerous dart leagues in the country mainly playing according to English darts rules.
The London 'Fives' Board
The Yorkshire Board