Soft-tip darts in the UK is virtually non existent. Although
boards are available to buy I personally have never come across a pub or club
that has one for people to play on. Unlike America, Canada and our European
partners soft tip darts seems a non entity. Why? Well I am not really sure!
So for all those UK people reading this page, what is
soft tip darts?
Soft-tip Darts started in America in 1975. A small machine shop owner named Rudy Allison was travelling through
Ireland when he stayed in a town called Wicklow. He spent some time playing
steel tip darts with the locals but notice the flow of play was interrupted by
the marking of the score on a chalk board. He thought why someone hadn’t thought
of away of scoring the game electronically as per pin ball machines. This
thought consumed Rudy and on his way back to America he had developed a rough
idea how a new style dartboard could calculate the scores automatically.
Over a period of a year Rudy experimented, refined his idea and gained financial backing to develop his idea
into a business. He produced a dart board made from a plastic / latex that had
thousands of holes in. The steel tip of the dart was replaced with a plastic
tip, so when the dart entered the board the tip would trigger a circuit which
recorded the score. This invention meant there was no need for manual marking of
The boards these days come in a variety of quality, finishes and pre installed games such as American Cricket and the
standard ’01 games to name just two. The darts used for this board are the same
as a standard dart we use on a steel tip (bristle /sisal) board with one major
exception, the tip!
Soft-tip darts is so called because of the material the dart point is made from: plastic. Most boards
also have a weight restriction limit of 18grms, this is purely to protect the
board from breaking, however there are more robust boards that will take a higher
weight dart up to 24grms.
League soft tip darts
usually have a dart weight restriction of 18grms but your local league will
advise. Throwing heavier darts than allowed will get you disqualified.
Boards vary in design and quality but a
basic board complete with darts will cost you @ £20.00 - £50.00 (UK) Circa 2015
If you play Soft-tip darts in a bar you are likely to play on a large vending dartboard machine however home Soft-tip Dartboard need to be fix to a wall or stand.
The Soft-tip dartboard setup is different from the Steel-Tip Bristle (Sisal) Standard Dartboard. The hanging height is the same 5ft 8ins / 173cm from the ground to the centre Bullseye.
The throwing distances 8ft (2.43m)
A variety of games can be played on the Soft-tip Dartboard and with electronic marking it makes each game quick. Most tournaments have a mixture of #01 Games i.e. 701 and Cricket (See Games) Also see the FREEZE RULE and dart weight restrictions.
Many UK visitors may not have heard or seen Soft-tip played however the sport is played widely across the World and is as big as and in some cases bigger than Steel-tip darts in a number of Countries.
Steel-tip dart users may find some of the rules a little confusing so he are the basic differences.
Usually a dart match consists of 701 and Cricket. With Soft-tip Darts the Bull / Outer Bull count as 50 not 50 and 25 as on a steel tip Bristle sisal dartboard. Also if a dart hits a scoring segment of the board but falls out it still counts! So you will see the players throwing for the Bull / Centre Bulls to reduce their scores in 701 game. You can also finish the 701 match on the inner or outer bull. To cap it all the scoring segments are bigger!
I have selected this YouTube Video to demonstrate the game. However a great soft-tip website is darts-theworld.com
Soft-tip Darts Freeze rule also known as Blocked in #01
The freeze rule was designed as a handicapping mechanism and for a steel tip dart thrower I find the freeze rule
bizarre to say the least. This is basically the rule for team play, soft-tip
A player can only “check out” if his or her partner has a score that is equal to or lower
than both opponent’s combined scores. If the partner’s score is higher than the
combined scores of their opponents the player is “frozen” and cannot win the
game at that time.
The strategy then is for the player to get as low as possible in points and hope the
partner has a chance to win the game. If someone is frozen and gets to zero, the
game will automatically “Bust”.
If your league is sanctioned by the National Darts Association (USA), having your score returned to the value
you had at the beginning of the round is contrary to their rules of play. A
player who is frozen, and who then takes out the game, should lose the game! But
before you get into any confrontation, it’s best to know if the board you are
playing are on is in accordance with the National Darts Association (NDA) guidelines regarding the freeze rule.
Want to Lean More?
If you are interested in learning more about the game I can recommend a book called the ‘A Quiver of 3’ by Timothy R.
Bucci. In the book Timothy covers a lot about the Soft Tip Game as well as his views on
equipment, building a darts team and winning strategies. His book is available
on line. See the link below.
The book includes the following:
Buying the right dart equipment
Understanding the Freeze Rule
Becoming more confident at the line
The best places to practice your game
Why clothes can be your worst enemy
Practicing without lifting a dart
The keys to building a great darts team
Creating your own talent surge
Understanding "The Zone"
Your can buy the book direct from Amazon.com click here for a direct link.
Lastly just to say I am not the best person to ask which soft tip dart board is
the best to play on or tips to use. Information of this nature can be found on a
number of Soft-Ttip dart sites and from local leagues.
Electronic Bristle Darts Boards.
Electronic or automatic scoring boards have come a long way since 1975. Available now are electronic bristle dart
boards. This relatively new scoring unit uses a conventional bristle dart board
and steel tip darts and is idea for pubs and clubs that want to generate a bit
more cash from us poor dart players. The principles are the same as the Soft-tip
darts i.e. the machine automatically calculates the score achieved and deducts
it from the amount you still need to achieve. These boards are more widely
available in the USA and other European Countries but I have managed to view one
at the Winmau World Masters - Bridlington UK ia few years ago.