How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and Tips

Last updated: Jan 31, 2021
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The original lawn darts with the pointed weighted metal tips are no longer legal to use in some countries but this hasn’t eliminated the game of lawn darts. Those who enjoy this backyard game can still play it using the upgraded safety version of this game, eliminating the risk of injury during games. This makes lawn darts a great choice for all members of the family, from the kids to the elderly, so everyone can join in the fun.

Of course, not everyone knows how to play lawn darts. Luckily, this game is easy to learn with simple rules that even the youngest players can understand. The pieces included are all safe to use and made of durable materials that can handle all types of conditions and weather, making lawn darts a great outdoor option for almost any season.-

What are lawn/yard darts/jarts?

How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and TipsLawn darts go by many names, including yard darts, javelin darts, lawn darts, or jarts. No matter what you call it, it is an entertaining backyard game similar to regular darts. The difference is that the target is placed flat on the ground and the darts are lobbed in the air to reach the target. There also aren’t separate point sections in the target. Instead, it is a simple ring that the darts land in and around, depending on the accuracy of the shot.

When and how the game appeared

Lawn darts were invented in the 1950s by a dentist names Lawrence Barnett and manufactured in South Glens Falls. Not long after this game showed up on store shelves, it became one of the most popular games in America. It included only a few pieces and was easy to play, making it an instant favorite for backyard barbecues and family picnics.

The gameplay was similar to another popular game at the time called horseshoes, with only slight differences in the equipment used. This added to the fun since anyone who knew how to play horseshoes already had the right skills to play lawn darts using the new pieces.

What it consists of

Lawn darts consists of four large darts and two rings or targets. The darts of the past had weighted metal tips on the ends, though these have since been upgraded to thick, rounded plastic ends to reduce injury during gameplay. Weighted bags are also used in some sets as a replacement for the metal tips.

The rings are thin hollow tubes, which are lightweight and easy to move wherever needed. In some versions of the game, the rings are replaced with targets with different scoring options, depending on where the dart lands.

Rules

The lawn dart rules are quite simple, making this a great game for kids and adults alike. It is simple to set up the targets, adjusting the placement as needed for the skill level of those involved.

Number of players

How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and TipsThere are a few options to choose from when deciding on players, according to the lawn darts game rules. The first option is to play with two players, each of whom gets a specific color of darts to play with. You can also play this game with two teams of two players each to accommodate more players.

Objective

The objective of yard darts is to earn points by landing your darts in or closest to the ring. Games are played to 21 points, though there are some variations to how you win, depending on the yard darts rules you set at the beginning of the game.

To win a game of lawn darts, you must score exactly 21 points. Varying rules determine how you achieve this. You can choose to play where the first person or team to reach this amount wins. Another option is that going over 21 deducts the points for that round, forcing you to make up those points on the next round. Some people also choose the option of having the winner win by 2 points over the other player when reaching 21 points.

Be sure to discuss these rules before beginning the game to be sure everyone is aware of them and there is no confusion on how the game will end.

Preparation

How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and TipsThe fact that there are only a few pieces included with a yard dart set makes it easy to set them up and get ready for a game. The first thing you need to do is place the rings on the ground. These should be 35 feet apart, though you can minimize this distance if you’re playing with children or if it’s your first time playing lawn darts.

The next step is to decide who is playing. If you are playing with only two players, you both stand behind the same target. This is where you throw your darts from. If you are playing with teams of two, a player from each team stands behind each of the targets, so there is one team player on each end of the playing field. The first players throw the darts and when their round over, the second team members throw them back for the second round.

Who throws first?

There are two options to choose from when deciding which player or team goes first. One rule is that the red team goes first, though this isn’t always fair if one person always chooses the red darts. Another way to decide who goes first is a simple coin flip.

After the first round, the person who goes first is determined by the scoring in the previous round. Whoever scored the most points last round goes first in the next one, so the better you play, the more often you get to start a round.

Scoring

Like most of the jarts lawn darts rules, there are variations to scoring. The standard rules state that the only way to score is to land inside the ring, which is called a “ringer”. Each ringer is worth 3 points. Any ringers scored by the other player cancel out your ringers, meaning if you land two ringers and your opponent lands one, you would only get 3 points.

There is also the Handly Cup Style of scoring, which is a bit more complicated. As well as scoring points for ringers, the darts closest to the ring also count as points or can offset the scoring of the opposing team.

Each ringer is still 3 points, as with the standard rules, and opposing darts can cancel out each other’s ringers in the same fashion. So, a single ringer from each team counts as 0 points for both players. Two red ringers and one blue ringer scores 3 points for the red team.

The closest darts to the ring, without entering this area, count for 1 point each, plus can affect the ringer points. If no darts land inside, the closest dart is awarded a point. If two red darts are closer than both blue darts, red gets 2 points.

If red gets a ringer but blue has a dart outside the ring that is closer than the second red dart, the red team gets only 2 points since the blue dart offsets the score by a single point. If red has a ringer and the closest dart outside the ring, they get 4 points.

Safety issues

As entertaining as a game of lawn darts can be, there have been some safety concerns with this game. This is mainly due to the weighted metal tips that were originally part of the dart design.

Bans in the USA and Canada

How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and TipsThe metal points on lawn darts became a concern in October of 1970. The Food and Drug Administration first requested that R. B. Jarts Inc. add a label to its darts that states they are only to be used by adults. In December of that year, this warning label was required for all lawn darts, stating that this game is not a toy and it could result in serious or fatal injury.

It wasn’t until the death of a 7-year-old in April of 1987 that the banning of this toy became a possibility. After over a year of lobbying by the girl’s father, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officially banned the use of lawn darts in the United States.

Though there are no deaths recorded in Canada, there were at least 55 serious injuries on record. Land darts were banned in this country in July of 1989, listing them under the Hazardous Products Act.

Safer alternatives

Though the original lawn darts are no longer sold, there are some safer alternatives. These include thick, round plastic ends that won’t cause injury, even if they hit other players. The Lawn Dart Game by EastPoint Sports is a good example, with sturdy, durable darts that are weather-resistant and great options for both kids and adults.

Similar lawn games

How to Play Lawn Darts: Rules and TipsThose who love outdoor lawn games like yard darts may be looking for some alternatives. One such game is ladderball, which includes balls on strings that are thrown at standing gates to earn points.

Outdoor dartboards are another option. There are a wide variety of outdoor dartboards available, so you can play this game in your backyard on a warm summer day.

Final thoughts

Though the lawn dart games that your parents or grandparents played may have been an unsafe outdoor choice, the new upgraded versions of this game can be a fun backyard options for the whole family to play. These games are made using durable plastic materials, so even the smallest players can handle them and join in on the fun.

With simple rules for gameplay and scoring, even beginners can learn how to play lawn darts in no time, no matter their age. The single-player and team options also accommodate whoever wants to play, plus gives you multiple tournament options for larger groups, ensuring that no one is left out of the game.

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