The 2023 release of the ArcheryGB classification system is the biggest change for some time. In total, the new system contains 18,479 individual scores across all the different categories and bowstyles, and with that many individual values it’s hard to fully appreciate the structure of the system.
Luckily, we don’t need to try and visualise all 18,479 values, as they are all derived from a much smaller set of handicap values. that the classification system has always just been a set of milestones along the handicap scale. For each of the individual categories, there are a set of 9 handicaps which define ALL of the scores for that table.
For example looking at a random category, Recurve U18 Women, the classification table is defined by the following values
|Archer 3rd Class
|Archer 2nd Class
|Archer 1st Class
|Bowman 3rd Class
|Bowman 2nd Class
|Bowman 1st Class
|Grand Master Bowman
|Elite Master Bowman
The entire handicap table is populated by looking up the score for each round at each of those handicaps. (Not all scores are shown due to other eligibility requirements which I will cover in a separate post.)
In the new classification tables, these handicaps are shown at the top of each column for reference, and all of the scores in that column represent the same handicap, and therefore the same level of performance, on those rounds.
We can plot these numbers in a form that’s more easy to grasp what’s going on, showing how the bands fit on the handicap scale.
In this view we can see the same information that’s shown in the classification tables, with the A3 class starting at 90, right the way through to EMB for handicap 34 and above.
In this representation, we can also overlay some other interesting information, such as national and world records, to see how they relate to the UK classification bands. So, let’s add on the following information, which are the relevant records for U18 Recurve Women
Score / Handicap
Score / Handicap
|1274 / 21.78
|1440 (60m) / Metric 2
|1336 / 23.39
|1389 / 13.28
|687 / 12.06
|687 / 12.06
We can plot those points on the same scale and find, as expected, that those records are all well into the EMB zone.
This is a useful way to look at a single category, and you could for example layer on many other benchmark points (e.g. 252 awards, Rose awards, etc.). However, as well as being a useful way to look at a single category, it’s also quite a useful way to look at ALL of the categories together which shows the patterns in the whole system and the relationships between different age groups and bowstyles.
This is a really big image. Click on (or click here) it to go to a full-sized version which is zoomable.
In this plot, there are also some standard benchmarks shown along the bottom, and I’ve added the World Archery Feather and Arrow awards on too as they are commonly used for absolute beginners. At the other end of this scale, note that the handicap scale now goes negative, as many of the compound national and world records exist in this negative handicap space.
The smooth, even steps on the 2023 system are in stark contrast to the old system, where, especially for barebow and longbow, there were uneven steps and categories that seemed to be in the wrong order – actually getting easy as the archer progressed up through the age-groups in some cases.