A handicap in archery is a number between 0 and 100 that indicates the ability of an archer and can be used to level the playing field in competition much the same way as a golf handicap. The lower the handicap the better the archer.

Handicaps help archers monitor their progress, enables the comparison of scores for different rounds and allows archers of differing abilities to compete equally.

In order to obtain a handicap, the archer must first shoot 3 rounds either in competition or at club target shoots. A handicap is assigned for each round score from the ArcheryGB handicap tables and the average of the 3 handicaps is taken; if necessary the handicap is always rounded up. From then on if the archer shoots a round score with a better handicap their current handicap will be modified; this is done by taking off half the difference between the handicaps and rounding up if necessary. If the archer shoots a round score that has a handicap with a lesser handicap then there is no change to the current handicap. Handicaps can get better but not worse during year.

By way of example:

Initial Handicap      
Round Score Handicap Calculation
Bray I 279 12  
Portsmouth 570 12  
Portsmouth 564 17 (12 + 12 + 17) / 3 = 13.66 rounded to 14
Subsequent rounds   14 Current handicap
Portsmouth 553 25 Lesser handicap, no change
Portsmouth 580 6 (14 - 6) / 2 = 4, new handicap = 14 - 4 = 10

Now you may be wondering whether your handicap can ever go down, well it can! At the end of the year handicaps are re-assessed; the average of the best 3 scores during the year become the new starting handicap. So if you have a consistently indifferent year in terms of performance your handicap can go down to reflect that. The year end is 1st January for outdoor handicaps and 1st July for indoor handicaps.

Handicaps are different for indoors and outdoors. This is mainly due to the different size 10 used by compounds indoors. Outdoors, where everybody shoots to the same scoring method there is no differentiation between bow types or age classification etc. So an outdoor handicap competition can see recurve, compound, junior and senior all competing together on a level basis. Indoors, compound and non-compound are segregated and have different handicaps. The Worcester round indoors if of course the exception to the rule because it has no inner ten ring.

So, now we have a handicap how do we apply it? When a handicap competition starts, each archer will have their current handicap taken into consideration. An allowance is added to the score that they achieve for the round; that allowance is taken from the handicap tables for their handicap for that round. Essentially, the allowance is (1440 - the score the handicap represents). Once all the scores are in and allowances added, the highest score wins. Here is an example:

Portsmouth round Handicap Score Allowance Total Score
Archer 1 20 575 857 1432
Archer 2 30 565 878 1443
Archer 3 40 540 910 1450

Here you can see that although Archer 1 shot the best score on the day, Archer 3 wins the competition because Archer 3 shot a better round comparative to their handicap.

Don't worry if all this is too confusing, you don't need to know it! Your records officer, however, does understand it and keeps records in order to maintain the handicaps for all archers in the club.