Whatever Happened to Lawn Darts?
Picture an early 80’s summer. A glorious time full of Rubik’s Cubes, big hair, inflatable pools and Gremlins. A simpler time, before iPads, smartphones and Facebook – when the sound of family life was a child’s gleeful squeal upon climbing to the top of a tall tree, rather than the obnoxious ping of yet another Whatsapp notification.
Recall your favourite memories of family time in the 1980s, and you’ll surely be reminded of countless hours enjoyed in the back garden. Amongst the most popular pursuits enjoyed throughout the pre-internet era was Lawn Darts, an addictive, engaging game of skill, technique, and luck.
Originally marketed as a game for the whole family, Lawn Darts timeless appeal made it a popular leisure time activity throughout the 70s and 80s. A lawn darts set would typically include four large darts, around a foot long, comprised of a plastic rod with three plastic fins attached. At the other end was a sharp, weighted metal tip designed to penetrate the turf. Holding the dart by one of the plastic fins, players would take turns to toss each dart underarm towards a yellow plastic ring, set on a patch of grass. Land within the target ring to win a point. Miss the target ring, and face ridicule from your fellow competitors, all the while your inner-voice chants “miss…miss…miss” across their attempt.
The darts themselves have featured in many different styles over the years, from the classic original sets made by Franklin and Hasbro, to the round-tipped Jarts game made by RecreAction Games, and modern-day interpretations like those manufactured by Crown Darts.
Whilst the tools have changed over time, predominantly for safety reasons, the principles of the game have remained the same – to inspire good, wholesome, competitive garden fun.
However, the game of lawn darts has a chequered past, having suffered decades of bad press due in part to a combination of irresponsible misuse, unfortunate incidents, and tragic accidents. Following a series of injuries stemming from poor safety precautions, the sale of lawn darts was banned in the United States for many years. In the late 1970’s the ban was overturned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, on the condition that the game was no longer marketed as a toy, and the game enjoyed a resurgence.
That was until, in 1987, a seven-year-old girl was tragically killed by a lawn dart which had been thrown over a fence by her brothers’ friend. The little girl’s father had purchased the game as part of a multiple-game set, and had stored it in the garage unaware of the risk its contents posed. The father campaigned to have the game banned. Following this and thousands more non-fatal accidents in the years since the original ban was lifted, the CPSC reinstated the ban on the sale of lawn darts in the United States in 1988. A ban which remains in place today.
Today, many responsible owners of lawn darts continue to enjoy the ‘adults-only’ game, and continue to host competitive tournaments at BBQs and garden parties, while enjoying a few beers with friends. In North America today, adults looking to update an old set, or buy a safer new set (with squared-off tips like those we manufacture) can do so legally by importing lawn darts as “spare parts”, provided they are securely packaged and shipped unassembled. This is how we at Crown Darts ship all of our products, to ensure they pass through American and Canadian customs unrestricted.
Then vs Now
The game of lawn darts is unlikely to ever recapture the popularity of the 70s and 80s, but what’s clear is that whether you are a year-round lawn darts enthusiast, summer BBQ champion, or occasional nostalgia seeker – there’s never a bad time to throw down a challenge.
Just remember, lawn darts are not toys. Keep them away from children at all times.
Read Next: How we made lawn darts safer