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The mechanical basics of throwing darts

look at some pictures of dart grips here, but read this article first!

Chapter 2 - The Grip

by Karlheinz Zöchling, February 1998
  1. The throw
  2. The grip (this document)
  3. The stance
Make sure you have read the section on 'The throw' before proceeding with this. Grip and stance just follow the requirements of the throw. You will benefit more when you know the connections.

All different - all equal

The grip is the most variable part of darting technique. In general you can use here what's comfortable for you. There are only a few DON'Ts you have to be aware of.

 The basic grip:

 Put the dart in your open palm. Balance it and find the center of gravity. Now with your thumb roll the dart to your finger tips. Place your thumb a bit behind the center of gravity, hold it with as much fingers as you like, then move your arm to aiming position. Ready.

Most grips are only slight variations of this standard grip.

 Basic requirements:


  • Point up! As you know from chapter 1 your grip's main objective must be to keep the tip of your dart pointing up in every throwing phase. If yours doesn't meet this, change it immediately.
  • Solid but not tensed. The grip must be firm, but it must not strain your finger muscles. If your fingers get white from pressure or the knurling digs into your fingertips, this is too much. If your muscles are that strained you have problems in release and all along the throw, this is too much. Darts is a game of touch, not force. To maintain your touch hold the dart loose enough it doesn't slip away, but hold it firm enough to keep control when accelerating. Typical error is rather holding the dart too firm than too loose.
  • How many fingers? An often asked question, and it can't be answered in general. At least 3 fingers (thumb + 2), maximum all 5. All fingers should touch the barrel or the point, no finger shall touch the shaft or even the flight. A 2 finger (thumb +1) grip gives not enough control, so 3 at least. More fingers give more control in acceleration and more touch, but it makes the release more difficult as more fingers have to be coordinated. Finger coordination in release is a key point for a grip. You have to make sure that no finger can give the dart an unlucky 'kick' in release to slip it out of position at the last moment. This leads directly to the next point:
  • Barrel shape: Not all kinds of grips are usable on different kinds of barrels. So it's obvious that longer barrels force a more finger grip, while less fingers must be used for short barrels (well, that's just simple-minded reasoning). Not only do you have to find your right grip, you also have to find your right barrel. These things can of course only be seen combined, and reversely. Just another issue of personal preference.
  • No fist! What to do with fingers not involved in the grip? The best is to spread them away, or keep them in the same position as the other fingers. It's bad e.g. if you hold the dart with 4 fingers (thumb + 3) and the small finger touches the palm like when making a fist. What happens is that the other fingers will suffer from muscle strain and will tend to a fist more than to the open hand required for a nice release. This will improve the chance of the unlucky finger 'kick' mentioned above, and it also tends to pointing the dart downwards, which we have already discovered as very bad.
To illustrate the wide variaty of grips, some examples from the pros. Note that the grip, as written above, also partly results from the preferred barrel shape, and vice versa:
  • Pencil - Phil Taylor: Phil holds the dart in the common pencil-grip. This grip is as good or as bad as any other one, as long as you can keep the dart pointing forward and not too much sideways. The pencil grip is the second most used after the lot of basic grip variations. It usually requires a thin cylindrical barrel, like used by Phil.
  • Wide open hand - Dennis Priestley: Dennis used to keep his fingers in a nearly vertical shape and does all the required stabilization only by his thumb. He closed the hand a bit more when I last saw him an video, but he is still the one with the most open hand I know. The grip looks very loose, a good advantage when it comes to exact release, but also a good chance to lose control in accelerating. How he maintains his touch with this grip is a complete miracle to me and seems to be only known by him. When I tried this grip I actually had problems hitting the board. He is either naturally gifted with it, or he has worked on it for years. A grip on the extreme side. Dennis uses a thicker more ton shaped barrel, somewhere between Phil Taylor and John Lowe.
  • Small finger on the tip - Eric Bristow: Eric in his brilliant years used to keep his small finger wide away from the others, touching the tip of the dart. Long cylindric barrel. His grip is one variation of the basic grip, not the best, not the worst. Less talented players might struggle with it.
  • Three fingers - John Lowe: John uses a ton shaped rather thick and short dart, so the 3 finger grip develops natural because more fingers hardly find the space to touch the barrel. Should be considered as a standard grip for this kind of darts.
  • Small finger spread away - Rod Harrington: Rod uses a long and thin barrel as it becomes usual more and more when standards and accuracy of the game improve. He uses the basic grip and spreads his small finger away vertically, while the others touch the barrel. A grip that seems very logic to me, I use a similiar one, on quite the same barrel.
  • Holding the dart on the front end - Bob Anderson: Bob holds the dart way before the center of gravity, just a bit behind the tip. This is unusual, as most players will struggle to develop a good touch for the throw when doing this. Bob 'pulls' the dart more than he throws it. His overall throw is faster than most others and it actually seems as if he permanently is in a hurry. Lots of wrist action. He uses a pencil derived grip which seems logic with this extreme technique, and a pretty long cylindric barrel. Not the grip to recommend, but a sophisticated technique for a man who throws a very dynamic dart.
Some pictures of grips here!

And now, find your own

You simply have to find your own grip. Everything that meets the requirements and can be handled well by you is good. Don't simply copy other players. Work it out on your own. You can of course try grips of different people for curiosity, to compare and find out which parts of it could fit you, or to learn about technical connections and improve your knowledge on this, but you are an individual, and grips are as individual as people. Don't get used to the habit of trying to find your 'weekly new and revolutionary grip'. Try for a while, find a suitable one, and then practice and use it.