Darts: ^The Art of darts^
^The Art of darts^ - a book soon to be published by Hodder and Stoughton, is three time World Champion, John Lowe^s guide to playing the game of darts. As the only man to win a World Championship in three decades, Lowe^s credentials are impeccable. But can the game be taught? Is there such a thing as the perfect action, or the perfect throw? Is there a secret ingredient, be it equipment or a way of holding the dart which can make someone a winner?
It is - to say the least, a difficult skill to analyse as no two players throw the dart the same - or use the same equipment. Players use a range of darts, in a range of weights and finishes and if there was a perfect stance or throw, then one assumes all players would follow it - however all players seem to have unique approaches to the game.
Lowe himself adopted a technically perfect, rock-steady stance with a smooth, languid action, however his 1980s nemesis - Eric Bristow had a throwing trademark, which was the cocked pinky finger - which he has since admitted was more for show and in keeping with his swaggering persona, than for any technical benefit. Lowe had the better action, but Bristow more often had the upper-hand in their battles. Which probably provides more questions than it does answers?
Of the other 80s greats, Bob Anderson - a former junior javelin champion had a short pull back with a jabbing style forward action, whilst another, the maverick Jocky Wilson adopted a throwing style, which would have had the purists covering their eyes, as it often saw him hurling himself sideways at the oche, whilst cupping a lit cigarette in his non-throwing hand! With 11 World Championships and a host of other titles between them - the four all achieved greatness but in their own unique way.
In the modern era, there is the Mervyn King twizzle, the Tony Eccles snake like curl - which earned him his nickname of : ^ The Viper^, The Dennis Smith ^knife throw^ and Ronnie Baxter, who cups the dart like he is holding an ice-cream - to name a few unique styles. There are players like Vincent Van der Voort who throws three darts in the time it takes Dennis Priestley to throw one. But as the redoubtable Yorkshireman has two World Championships in the bag and a place in the PDC Hall of Fame - one assumes he isn^t too bothered if he keeps us waiting a little longer for his darts to hit their target - which they undoubtedly do.
Of the two most successful players in the modern era - Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor are a contrast in style and approach. The former - like John Lowe has a lovely languid action. It appears so natural and so easy, whilst Taylor appears to be a study of concentration, unlike van Barneveld - to whom it seems to come easily, he looks like a man hard at work. Taylor has a very deliberate style which he has likened to holding a gun and taking aim at his target. The Dutchman, van Barneveld is also a tall man - which is more ideally suited to the game. Whilst Taylor - a small, squat man - is not physically blessed with the ideal height to have made a success of the game - as the purists once believed that a player of six foot or so was approaching the board from the ideal height and throwing ^at^ the board rather than ^up at^ it like Taylor does. As darts first millionaire - and the greatest player to have thrown tungsten - The Stokie has made a mockery of those suggestions that a smaller man was not ^built^ for darts.
So for the aspiring arrow smith - what do they do if they are looking to improve their game? Is it the 26g dart used by Phil Taylor or Dennis Priestley^s 15 gram Winmau arrows? Is it the knurled and knobbled finish dart of Mervyn King or the smooth as silk missiles used by Terry Jenkins.? Do they adopt bullet shaped darts like Peter Manley, or needle like weapons as used by Ted Hankey? Once that has been sorted do they then throw quick like Vincent or slow like Dennis? Smooth like Lowey or jerky like Jocky? Is it nonchalant like Raymond or deliberate like Phil? With 5 million of PDC money up for grabs this year - anyone who can come up with a definitive answer is going to be a very wealthy and in-demand person.
Written by Rob Finch