If you watch professional players playing darts, you will notice that they are standing behind a line. That is the throw line, which is formally called the oche. The pronunciation is similar to the word hockey, but you say it without the ‘h’ like ‘aki.’
But is that the only thing to know about the oche? Not exactly. There is more to it than meets the eye. With that said, here is everything we need to know about the oche.
What is Oche in Darts?
The oche is the throw line in darts. It’s also called the toe line. When throwing the darts, players position themselves behind the line, which is above the toes. They can lean a little forward, but the feet should not go over the line.
To ensure fairness in the game, the oche is measured approximately eight feet away from the dartboard (more about the measurements later). If you throw at a closer distance, you’ll receive a penalty, or worse, get disqualified from the game.
Origins and History
Between oche and throw line, one would prefer to use the former because it’s a shorter and more unique word. According to Patrick Chaplin, an expert in darts, the British Darts Organization introduced oche to the public in the middle of the 1970s.
But where does the word “oche” originate?
Unfortunately, there is no clear explanation of how oche became the term for the throw line in the game of darts. However, several theories can explain the oche etymology. Let’s get to know them.
1. Nick or Notch
This is not a popular theory, but Chaplin said that oche is derived from an old Flemish word that means nick or notch. The downside is that there is no proof to support this theory.
Among the theories that are known today, this is probably the closest explanation to the origins of oche. It says that oche is derived from the old English word “hocken,” which means to spit. But there is more to this story.
Back in the 1920s, News of the World, an English newspaper, organized darts competitions. To identify the throwing line in the rules, they used the term hockey, which was derived from the word “hockey.”
Similarly, bars in English public houses held spitting competitions. Now, the “hockey line” (the throwing line) was the distance from where the player spewed his spit, which was in front of the dartboard, to as far as where his spit landed.
3. S. Hockey & Sons
Another popular theory that can explain the oche etymology is the S. Hockey & Sons, which was believed to be a brewery located in England’s West County.
To set this story, it is important to note that the initial throwing distance was nine feet. So, with that in mind, the English brewery delivered beer to various pubs. They placed the beers in wooden crates that measured three feet.
According to the story, one pub owner established the nine-foot throwing distance (3×3 feet) by lining three wooden crates that came from S. Hockey & Sons.
Furthermore, the phrase “toeing the hockey” is also believed to originate from the same theory, which makes it more believable.
Unfortunately, there is no truth to this story. There exists no record or proof to support this claim. Patrick Chaplin has also revealed that S. Hockey & Sons does not exist anywhere in England while doing his research on the history of darts in his country.
Why Not Toe Line?
Other than the throw line, some people also refer to the oche as the toe line. But why isn’t it used often? The reason for that is that the term oche has been used for several decades now. It has become a significant word in the world of darts, which means it can’t be easily replaced right away.
Distance, Measurement, and Rules
Let’s talk about the current distance of the oche to the dartboard. For steel tip darts, the official distance between the board and oche along the floor is 2.37 meters (7 feet and 9.25 inches). Meanwhile, it is 2.44 meters (8 feet) for soft tips.
Aside from that, the measurements of oche don’t exceed 40mm in height, 20mm in depth, 500mm in width. The distance between the floor to the bullseye is 1.73 meters (5 feet 8 inches), and the diagonal distance from the bull to the oche is 2.93 meters (9 feet 7.5 inches).
When it comes to the rules, there are other things that you need to remember. When a player throws a dart, the feet should not go over or step on any part of the oche.
The accepted position is behind the line, directly above the toes. The players can move to the side, but they have to make sure they don’t go over the invisible oche.
If a player throws a dart, but the position is invalid, the throw is not counted in the total tally.
What do the rules say about leaning over the oche? Well, players are allowed to lean or move their bodies over the line when they throw the darts.
They can extend any part of the body as long as the feet are still behind the oche. Although leaning over can move you closer to your aim, you will lose your balance, resulting in inaccuracy at throwing.
There you have it. The throw line in the game of darts is officially called the oche. It’s also known as the toe line, but official tournaments will always refer to it as the oche.
Sadly, there is no evident proof of its etymology, but it’s interesting to know that there are many theories that can explain how it got its name.
The oche may only be a line on the floor, but it is one of the most critical components in the game. Without the oche, there is no fairness during the match. Players can just throw their darts wherever they feel comfortable. Don’t you think so?
Reference: The Oche – Dr. Patrick Chaplin