A-Z Darts Blog!

Left-Handed Dart Players | What Righties Need to Know

Left-handed dart players | what righties need to know cover photo

“All the decisive blows are struck left-handed” 

– Walter Benjamin

The thing I love most about our game is that it doesn’t discriminate. Color, race, gender, orientation, nationality, age, or strength; none of these help or hurt your cause towards playing the game well or having fun. There is one group however, that the game is slightly, and incidentally prejudicial against from its very inception. That group is left-handed dart players. Make no mistake, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for lefties, on the contrary, I want to enlighten you about the behaviors and eccentricities of left-handed opponents so that you can understand the rare breed a little bit better. Before we dive into what righties need to know about left-handed dart players, let’s touch on lefty history.

LEFT-HANDED HISTORY | THE BIG PICTURE

Left-Handed History
Left-Handed History

Left-handers have been treated with disdain since the beginning of recorded time. To look up the definition of “left-handed” you will get a definition like: “Lacking or showing a lack of nimbleness in using one’s hands.” Synonyms include: Awkward, clumsy, and sinister. Conversely, the word “dexterity” comes from the Latin dexter, meaning “the right side”. Synonyms include: skillful, artful, clever. Most righties and lefties would be surprised at this historical lexicon and that it still pervades modern day dictionaries and thesauri.

Left-handers have been treated with disdain since the beginning of recorded time. To look up the definition of “left-handed” you will get a definition like: “Lacking or showing a lack of nimbleness in using one’s hands.” Synonyms include: Awkward, clumsy, and sinister. Conversely, the word “dexterity” comes from the Latin dexter, meaning “the right side”. Synonyms include: skillful, artful, clever. Most righties and lefties would be surprised at this historical lexicon and that it still pervades modern day dictionaries and thesauri.

We think about the word “ambidextrous” as meaning, being able to do things competently with both hands. But to dissect the Latin root of the word, it literally breaks down to meaning ‘both right hands’, as if to say, you must have two right hands if you can skillfully do things with both. It is amazing to me to think that history has painted such a picture of the ineptness of lefties when in fact, it was a picture painted by the majority of the minority to help justify not catering to them.

Left-handed dart players | TODAY

There shouldn’t be a difference in playing a lefty. But there is. It is seldom that righties notice the uniqueness of left-handed people, if they even notice that their opponent is lefty at all. Just like all the other intricate details of the game, the nuance of southpaws is real and if you’re not careful, some of these behaviors could surprise you and put you on tilt. Part of me feels it inappropriate in sharing the secrets of my handedness; alas I am lefty, and a deft one at that. My hope is to shed some light on the everlasting minority so that you know how to manage such crafty opponents and understand that like with many things in life, the rules of the game, and the lay of the land were not made for the left-handed player.

The world is made for right-handed people, and “rightfully” so. Left-handed people makeup only 10% of the population. This percentage has remained constant since the ill-fated, and improper attempt to convert lefties into righties was given up. Can-openers, scissors, power tools, musical instruments, you name it, is skewed towards a righties’ usage. That doesn’t mean that anyone should sleep on lefties. Lefties are incredibly resourceful because we’ve had no choice but to adapt. We are much more resilient adversaries. There may not be many of us, but we don’t go away and we find ways to overcome. Generally speaking if we have hung around this game, we have persevered at a high level. The United States has seen some great left-handed dart players: Darin Young, Ray Carver, Mat Malone, Jim Newman, Danny Lauby Jr., Stacey Pace. (Please write me with additions as I would like to recognize more appropriately.)

The world is made for right-handed people, and “rightfully” so. Left-handed people makeup only 10% of the population. This percentage has remained constant since the ill-fated, and improper attempt to convert lefties into righties was given up. Can-openers, scissors, power tools, musical instruments, you name it, is skewed towards a righties’ usage. That doesn’t mean that anyone should sleep on lefties. Lefties are incredibly resourceful because we’ve had no choice but to adapt. We are much more resilient adversaries. There may not be many of us, but we don’t go away and we find ways to overcome. Generally speaking if we have hung around this game, we have persevered at a high level. The United States has seen some great left-handed dart players: Darin Young, Ray Carver, Mat Malone, Jim Newman, Danny Lauby Jr., Stacey Pace. (Please write me with additions as I would like to recognize more appropriately.)

Ray Caver
Mat Malone
Jim Newman
Previous
Next

THE DESIGN OF A DARTBOARD

Championship Darts Circuit CDC United States challenge tour for spot at 2022 PDC William Hill World Darts Championship
CDC Poster Featuring 2 Left-Handed Players out of 4

As of the publication of this article, of the 128 PDC Tour card holders for 2021 only 8 of them are lefty. Righties don’t operate in this game from a point of known privilege, but they are a step ahead of their lefty opponents. To start with, the number pattern on the dartboard goes back to the 1890s and is largely credited to Brian Gamlin. While I never met the man, I can say with at least 90% accuracy that he was a righty. While the design was thought of as a way to punish inaccuracy, putting the 8 directly next to the 16 couldn’t have been accidental. The numbering convention predates the game of 501as we know it today though it does not predate the advent of right-handedness vs. left-handedness and games involving doubles. Certainly had it been thought of with fairness in mind, the D5 would have been placed next to the D10. Alas it is not. Not only is it easier to manage for righties coming across their bodies to shoot D16, there is also less obstruction of the target based on torque in the torso, the draw and likely eye dominance.

Championship Darts Circuit CDC United States challenge tour for spot at 2022 PDC William Hill World Darts Championship
CDC Poster Featuring 2 Left-Handed Players out of 4

As of the publication of this article, of the 128 PDC Tour card holders for 2021 only 8 of them are lefty. Righties don’t operate in this game from a point of known privilege, but they are a step ahead of their lefty opponents. To start with, the number pattern on the dartboard goes back to the 1890s and is largely credited to Brian Gamlin. While I never met the man, I can say with at least 90% accuracy that he was a righty. While the design was thought of as a way to punish inaccuracy, putting the 8 directly next to the 16 couldn’t have been accidental. The numbering convention predates the game of 501as we know it today though it does not predate the advent of right-handedness vs. left-handedness and games involving doubles. Certainly had it been thought of with fairness in mind, the D5 would have been placed next to the D10. Alas it is not. Not only is it easier to manage for righties coming across their bodies to shoot D16, there is also less obstruction of the target based on torque in the torso, the draw and likely eye dominance.

The Design of a Dartboard forces left-handed players to set up different outs
View the Colonial V2 dartboard by clicking the image above.

Left-Handed SETUPS AND DOUBLING

As alluded to above there is a slight difference in how lefties could, and perhaps should approach the board. For the most part, lefties don’t pay active attention to this, it is another case of adapting and overcoming seamlessly. No where is the lefty blueprint more evident than in observing the most accomplished lefty in the history of the game; James Wade. He comes off as aloof, different, perhaps affected to some. It is rarely, if at all recognized that his biggest difference is being left-handed. The data of recent years shows that Wade sets up D20 much more often than D16. It is preferred most likely to avoid adding torque to the torso when opening up towards the D16, but also, because of the greater ease in setting up for the D10 (with the same ease the righties set up for the D16 and D8). For those that have argued he never has 100+ averages, my counterpoint would be it is because of setting up 40 instead of 32 consistently. (I.E. Leaving 32 after 15 darts is 93.8 in a loss. Leaving 40 after 15 darts is 92.2 after a loss.)

James Wade famous left-handed darts player
Browse our James Wade signature darts by clicking the image above.

In looking at setups in this regard, you will see him shoot T7 as a first dart on 61, (he has even done it a few times on 121 dependent on where his opponent is in the leg). T14 is his start on 62. You will see him shoot T9 on 67 (a safer play than the T17 if you take a look at the potential spray). But why? Believe it or not, it has to do with the side lefties draw from, eye dominance, and the torque of the torso. Lefties cross their dominant eye (right eye-but more on eye dominance another time), and create torque in the lower back and oblique in turn back to D16 based on how lefties stand at the oche. It is worth lefties noting for approaching the board in an easier fashion. It is worth righties being aware so as not to be caught off guard with a setup/out that you are not aware of, or prepared for.

DART RETRIEVAL

The Darts Regulation Authority (DRA), the body that governs PDC competition has a rule that indirectly favors righties. Unintentionally it puts lefties in a position to make a few extra steps that may look to some like lefties are not being prompt with getting their darts from the board. There is no gamesmanship here. Let me explain: Rule 5.7.6 (ii) states: “the player with the Throw, after retrieving their darts, will be obliged to turn to their right and exit the exclusion zone as soon as practicable to walk back to the non-playing position in a timely fashion.” When catching up with Darin Young, he brought this up straight away.

When on TV, I have to practice pulling the darts and walking back on the right side. It is mandatory as you don't block the cameras. I naturally remove the darts with my right hand and walk back on the left side.

Darin Young

While this seems like an innocuous rule, it indirectly asks lefties to take a few extra steps to get out of the way. When a righty retrieves their darts, their steps are left, right left. On that third step, the left leg plants by the board, the right leg swings in towards the board, and swings back out, as the first exit step back towards the non-playing area to the right. With lefties, the steps are the opposite. A lefty steps right, left, right and ideally retrieves with their right hand as Darin suggests. In doing so, they are facing to the left of the board with their back to the referee.

It is more difficult for left-handed dart players to exit stage right during matches
Darin Young retrieving darts with his right hand (opposite dominant hand) then having to take an additional step with his left left to exit stage right.

In order to stay in rhythm of those steps, a lefty needs to do a bit of a pirouette and expose their front side to the opponent as they step to the line and ready their throw. Ron Muelenkamp and Niels Zonneveld do this at times. James Wade chooses to meter his steps with a smaller stride and actually takes an extra step to get his feet in sync the way a righty would plant left, swing with the right. He chooses to pull his darts with his left hand (I argue you should always pull darts with your opposite hand so as to avoid fatiguing the throwing shoulder by continuously reaching up to the T20 area.) Neither way is optimal, but neither is having players exiting to both sides. So if it looks like a left-handed person is getting in the way purposefully, now you know why.

James Wade vs Niels Zonnefeld. A rare matchup of two lefties. This is an edited clip. It shows the warmup darts before their match from a side view. You can see two different approaches lefties take on retrieval, from the description above. (Muted so that you can focus on the visual).

TV AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Years before darts television production was what it is today The News of The World Championships of the early and mid 1970s did their best to bring fans content of the game. Believe it or not, before the split screen, steady cams, and innovative camera cranes, the main camera shot of the players’ throw was from the right of the dartboard. 

1976 New Of The World Final: Leighton Rees vs. Bill Lennard (filmed from the other side of the board) To let the video play you can see from the wide stage shots where they hid the camera.

In 1979 the News Of The World Final featured Bobby George against one of the most famous darting lefties of all-time, Alan Glazier. By that year, the television coverage had upped its game to the split screen, and the main camera capturing the throw had been moved to the left side of the board, obscuring Glazier’s throw.

Lefties get the short end of the stick when it comes to motion picture and still photography. While there are random still shots on occasion, most lefty grips are completely unseeable. It is a shame but when it comes down to it, this is likely a cost savings and operational function. In talking to television/production professional and Chief Marketing and Production Officer of the Championship Darts Circuit, L. David Irete, the viewers come first. With upwards of seventeen cameras at the last World Championships there are only so many directional moves a viewer can take watching their screens. Darts production is in a solid, stationary place right now; though there is room for innovation and improvement, adding that many extra cameras to cut to during a broadcast would not necessarily be added value to the viewer. In fact, too many camera cuts could eventually detract from the show.

FIST BUMPS AND HANDSHAKES

Lefties are much more likely to give you a fist bump than a handshake. It is not that they are trying to be surly or cold, it is completely functional in its approach. A righty starts with their darts in their left hand, leaving the right hand available to shake, especially at the start of a leg. Don’t be surprised or offended if a lefty does not put their darts in the other hand for that handshake. It is not gamesmanship. Lefties recognize that in switching hands the tackiness in both hands changes while a righty doesn’t have to go through this nuanced gyration at all. It is small, but it is a competitive advantage for righties that lefties don’t want to give in to. Fist bumps in starting or ending a match are more common from lefties, as there is no need to switch hands for that. Also righties, be advised, if you lose a leg to a lefty on darts #1 or #2, don’t expect a handshake either as there are still a dart(s) in the lefty’s right hand.

MISCELLANY

In speaking to longtime national ADO player Mat Malone, he recounted an oddity in getting his personalized flights from his sponsor. He noticed that the text on the flights from the inside of a lefty’s throw is upside down, (it only reads correctly from the outside). For right-handed players horizontal text on flights and shafts reads properly in this regard. It is the case with all horizontal text on flights. There is no competitive advantage here, it is just one more thing that leaves lefties shaking their heads that righties pay no mind to. Mat astutely noted that left-handed dart players most often are postured on the oche towards the chalker and have to be more focused on avoiding distraction as a result. Have you ever had a bad chalker that doesn’t know the etiquette? Lefties sadly notice it more often.

Lefties get flirted with more often:

We are more attractive, more debonair, and more beguiling; so of course we get more attention off the oche. Scientifically that might be a bit of a stretch, but lefties who picked up the game before wedded bliss might never have gotten comfortable playing with their wedding band on their throwing hand. For anyone picking up on social cues of wedding rings, it is worth looking for a ring hanging from a chain or necklace, or perhaps on the ring finger on the right hand while playing. If you are a lefty and do such things with your wedding band or engagement ring, just make sure your significant other is okay with how you choose to sport important jewelry while playing.

COACHING/TEACHING | The Left-Handed Advantage

Left-handed, knowledgable and articulate players have the ability make excellent instructors and coaches. Lefties allow you, the righty, to mimic your coach while standing on the oche, or as UK coach Dynamite Dave Llewelyn (also a lefty) calls it, “man in the mirror”. Dave says, “I can see anomalies they may have, allowing me to instantly correct them.” I concur. Having a lefty instructor on the oche with you enables the instructor to see you, and for you to see the instructor. It is one of the major positives that players mention when I work with them. Dave, as an adaptive lefty, has gone so far as to be comfortable enough with his style and techniques, to switch to righty to do “man in the mirror” when coaching lefties.

Respectfully,

Dax

Dr. Manhattan

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit