Who Threw The Very First Nine-Darter?

I receive a good number of darts history questions via my website, but one I received in February 2003 from a dart fan in the Netherlands really set me thinking.

The question was: 

‘Do you know when the first 9-dart finish was thrown in the history of darts? And I mean ‘In what year?’ I was wondering when that happened.’

What a splendid question!

The first 9-darter to be seen on TV was, of course, John Lowe’s in 1984, followed by Paul Lim’s in 1990, but who hit the very first 9-darter is not known and – I would suggest – is lost in history. All I can say is that it is very unlikely that it happened before the introduction of the tungsten dart.

Before that time – the late 1970s – darts were mainly made of brass or wood and were much wider than tungsten. Thus it made it very difficult to hit a 180, let alone two 180s in a row! Tungsten darts, being much thinner, brought the possibility of the ultimate game to reality.

John Lowe, when interviewed after his TV 9-darter in 1984, said that he had hit the magic sequence during exhibition matches but until then never in a major competition.

Who scored the first 180?

The Guinness Book of Records used to include a claim for this but in my research I have not been able to trace the pub in which it was said to have been achieved in the early 1900s or the newspaper in which the event was supposed to have been reported.

Both the first 180 and the first 9-darter will probably never be known. OK, so I might find a report later on which says that 180 was scored by Mr X in a pub in London in 1928 or that Mr Y hit a nine-darter in Holland in 1978, but who’s to say that someone else, in a pub, in a private game, hadn’t hit one a lot earlier?

So, what do we do?

We have to look at what we actually know for sure has happened and qualify it. So, we applaud John Lowe as the first man to achieve a 9-darter on TV (recorded), Paul Lim as the first man to achieve it in the Embassy World Darts Championships and Shaun Greatbatch as the first man to achieve it on ‘live’ TV.

As my research continues I may well find an earlier report than John Lowe’s in 1984 about a nine-darter. That won’t prove that that person scored the first ever 9-darter but it be ‘the earliest known 9-darter.’

So the answer was not as my enquirer might have expected. Such a question illustrates the frustrations that research causes this humble Darts Historian.

So, instead of you asking me a question, I’ll ask you one. Let me throw out a challenge to all you darters out there.

What is the earliest recorded case of a 9-darter and/or a ‘180’?

Do YOU know?

Frivolous admissions like, “Yeah, my grandfather hit a 9-darter in the White Horse on Christmas Day 1937 with a set of darts he made in his shed” or “I remember my Uncle Ted hitting 180 on a paper dartboard which used to hang on the back of our kitchen door in the 1950s” will not be accepted. The claim must be backed up by a genuine report of some kind, for example, a press cutting.

Either e-mail your information to me or post it to my home address, both of which appear on my ‘Contact’ page.

Mat Coward’s article – John Lowe’s Nine Dart Finish

© Patrick Chaplin March 2003

Ray Subbs (BBC Sports presenter) Patrick Chaplin & Bobby George

How Many Permutations?

I immediately knew who to contact when Phil C. of Cheltenham, England e-mailed me in August 2008 with the question ‘How many possible permutations of a 501 nine-dart finish are there?’

Earlier that year I had been in conversation with Bobby George and he had told me that he had worked out not only the number of combinations for a nine-dart 501 but also the number of possible sequences.

Bobby revealed that there are, according to his calculations, no less than 145 combinations and 3,944 sequences.

(Now watch the mathematicians out there whipping out their pencils and paper and checking out the calcs!)

Thanks to Bobby for the information.

© 2008 Patrick Chaplin (Revisions 2019)

Check out Bobby George’s website at

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