Handicaps can be viewed as a measurement of precision which can indicate your consistency over time across different rounds.

What is an archer’s handicap?

At its most simple, a handicap can be viewed as a measure of precision (i.e., group size or consistency). The smaller the handicap, the smaller the group and the better the score.

A perfect archer can shoot an identical shot every time to hit the spider or ‘x’ at the centre of the target. However, in reality, no archer is perfect, and rounds have imperfections due to variations in technique from shot to shot. The spread of the arrows as they leave the bow translates directly to the size of the group down range and hence the score. The more skilled an archer is the smaller the variation from the perfect shot and the smaller the group.

A handicap is a number assigned to measure the amount of variation as the arrows leave the bow. By tracking where the arrows land on a particular target face at a given distance, an ‘expected’ score can be calculated.

Why are handicaps useful?

The best-known use of handicaps is to compare performance across different rounds. As there are a variety of different rounds each requiring a different number of arrows shot, it can be difficult to know how a score on one distance compares to a score on another.

Since handicaps represent an absolute measure of precision, all the scores corresponding to a single handicap represent a consistent level of performance. The Archery GB classification scheme uses this approach. Each bowstyle and classification level is assigned a specific handicap, and qualifying scores for each round are calculated from this.

Handicaps can help you track your progress. Whilst the classifications and other badge schemes provide a number of milestones on your archery journey, it can take some time to progress between each one. Handicaps are closer together so you can continue seeing progress, even if you don’t get any new badges.

How is a handicap calculated?

Using the approach described, Archery GB produces tables that show each handicap and corresponding score for many different rounds. If you shoot a certain score on a certain round you can look up the handicap that corresponds to that score. Once you have shot three scores your handicaps are averaged to provide a starting value.

You can download the official Archery GB Handicap Tables on the Archery GB website.

Each time you shoot a better score, the corresponding handicap is calculated. The reason worse scores aren’t used is to maintain a true representation of ability and avoid adverse effects such as bad weather impacting the value.

At the end of the seasons (31 December for outdoors, 31 June for indoors), your three best handicaps from scores made during that season are averaged together. This provides the starting handicap for you for the following season.

Calculating your outdoor handicap and classification

You can find the official handicap and classification tables and a tool to calculate handicap and classifications for a given score on our website. Many people also make use of third-party online tables, calculators or score tracking apps for calculating their handicaps and classifications. Whilst it may take some time for all of these to become up-to-date with the new schemes, these two online calculators already support the new tables: Archery Calculator and Archery Geekery.

For club members, handicaps are calculated and provided by our records officer at the end of each season.