Although I have been assisting the owners of Flight Club in London with information and memorabilia for a year or so it was only in July that I was able to visit not one but two of these amazing venues. Flight Club is a new club concept promising 'social darts'.
The clubs do not look like any other club. They feature all you would expect of a club in the capital but with the addition of several superb oches each with a standard, quality bristle dartboard and that special something else... (The photo below shows the main bar at the Bloomsbury Flight Club.)
You don't have to play darts while you're there. It's not compulsory but then how can you go to Flight Club and not be drawn into playing the second most popular indoor pursuit ever?
You won't find anyone playing anything vaguely complicated like 501 or American Cricket (our Tactics) and you don't have to start or finish on a double. The games devised at Flight Club are all straightforward and easy to learn. They include 'Demolition' (counting down from 180), 'Shanghai' (a familiar game to us all) and 'Quack Shot' (which concentrates on the bull and 25 but you are penalised if you hit a treble or anything outside the treble ring).
All of these games are great levellers and can be played if you play every week, every so often, or haven't ever thrown a dart in your life.
Part of the fun is having your photograph taken by computer and your nickname added and then projected on to the screen above the dartboard. When all players have been recorded that way and the game you want to play selected all you do is throw your darts. There is no need to score. No chalk. No electronic scoreboard. (But this is not soft-tip.) It's all done for you by technology that I simply do not understand.
As soon as your dart hits the dartboard the score is recorded and shown on a screen above the board. All the scores for each dart thrown are recorded using hi-tech. Even with a large group you don't have to argue over whose turn it is next. The screen above the board tells you whose turn it is. When the winning dart is thrown the legend 'Let's see that again' appears on the screen above the board and you see yourself - the winner - celebrating that magic dart.
My wife Maureen and I were invited to the Shoreditch Flight Club in early July by co-founders Paul Barham and Steve Moore and experienced Flight Club for the first time.
Over recent months I have provided a great deal of darts memorabilia that now bedecks not only the two London clubs but also the newly-opened one in Chicago. At the Bloomsbury Club one wall is covered with framed front pages of Darts World magazine, some stretching back over 40 years.
I have to say both Maureen and I were very impressed. (The staff were excellent too.) Maureen hardly ever plays darts and I only play once a week or so these days. The four of us played darts but I am too much of a gentleman to say who actually won the games.
Flight Club is not a Club aimed at the hardened traditionalist although of course they are welcomed with open arms just like anyone else. Indeed the oches are set in the floor at 'Rookie' (about six feet), 'Regular' (a standard oche length) and 'Pro', a foot or so back, the latter designed to ensure that any professional, or simply very good, players throw their darts from an oche that was actually standard in the News of the World tournament pre-1939.
A couple of weeks after Maureen and my visit to Shoreditch I was back at Flight Club; this time to the Bloomsbury club as part of a Gentlemen's Evening; all nine of us celebrating the forthcoming nuptials of my best friend Colin's son Chris. Chris, who is less than half my age, chose the venue.and what a choice!
Playing with the warmth of alcohol in my brain, I foolishly threw, for whatever reason, from the Pro line (I really am not that good) which resulted in the saddest darts I have ever thrown in my life! But what a night! Next to us a group of young ladies were having the time of their lives possibly sampling 'social darts' for the first time then possibly not.
Flight Club is for all. (Trust me. I'm a doctor.)
Paul and Steve and their design teams have managed to combine the atmosphere and ambiance of a first class club with a darts theme very successfully; a theme that runs throughout their establishments to great effect whether you are a fan of darts or not. But don't take more word for it. Visit Flight Club yourselves and tell them 'Dr. Darts' sent you, but first check out all three Clubs by going to flightclubdarts.com and then let me know what you think.
Success can always be measured in terms of popularity and an increasing demand for more. To this end Steve and Paul have plans for a third Flight Club in the capital at Victoria, coming soon. Look out too for the first Flight Club in the UK outside of London, coming to Manchester in the not too distant future.
'Social Darts' really works.
Flight Club Shoreditch
Flight Club Bloomsbury
Flight Club Victoria
Dr. Darts' Newsletter 102 - September 2018