How to be an Archery Club Records Officer: Part 3 – Handicaps

One of the key roles of the records officer is to maintain a list of handicaps for the archers in the club.

As with the other articles in this series, I would strongly recommend you use some records management software to do this as it can be quite time consuming to do it manually. However, it is important to understand how the process works in case you need to do it manually.

What is a handicap?

Just like in other sports, most famously in golf, a handicap system is used in archery. Put simply, an archer’s handicap is a rating of how good they are, or more precisely a rating of their ability to shoot a tight group of arrows. 0 is the best handicap with the tightest groups, and 150 is the lower end of the handicap scale where arrows would be quite widely scattered.

(I won’t go into the mathematics of the system here. You can find good descriptions of that here. That article refers to the old system but is still a good description of the concepts.)

Behind the scenes, the handicap system models the expected distribution of arrows given a particular angular deviation of the bow. If you could hold the bow in exactly the same position every time, and have robotically perfect and repeatable form, every arrow would go in exactly the same place and you would have a perfect handicap. However, that’s clearly impossible and in reality, so arrows get scattered around. The higher that degree of scatter, the higher the handicap value.

Once we know how scattered the arrows will be for a given handicap rating, we can then easily calculate what score you could expect if you put a certain size target face in front of those arrows at any given distance. That means we can work out what score we would expect for a given handicap, and vice versa, calculate the handicap for a given score.

Do I really need to understand that?

No, definitely not.

You don’t need to understand exactly how the system works in order to use it, because all of the work is done already and published in the form of Handicap Tables. The official handicap tables show the scores you would expect on any official round, for every handicap from 0 – 150. The official handicap tables are available from ArcheryGB here, or you can create tables using ArcheryGeekery’s own table generator here.

Using the tables is easy. Take a look at the following example

So, for example, let’s say someone just scored 1230 on a York round. To calculate the handicap, we go to the tables and look down the York column. 1230 is not shown, but clearly sits somewhere between 12and 13, and we always go to the next higher handicap if there is no exact match. So, 1230 on a York is a handicap of 13.

A handicap of 13 really just represents a particular amount of arrow scatter. Shooting with that same level of scatter on other rounds would likely get the other scores shown in that same 13 row. This is a useful property of the handicap system that allows you to see what score you could expect to achieve on one round, given your score on another round.

Records Officer Handicap Tasks

The club records officer has the job of figuring out what everyone’s handicap is. As shown above, it’s quite easy to find out the handicap for a given score, but how to we calculate the handicap rating of an archer? I would recommend using software for this, but it’s useful to understand the process, so here it is.

Setting the initial handicap
  1. An archer only gets their first handicap after they’ve shot 3 scores on official rounds.
  2. That initial handicap is calculated by averaging the handicap of the 3 scores, which are found by looking up in the handicap tables.
Updating the handicap when new rounds are shot
  1. During a season, every time an archer shoots a new score –
    • Calculate the handicap of the new score
    • If it’s lower than the archer’s current handicap, take the average of the new score’s handicap and the archer’s current handicap to be the the new handicap.
    • If it’s equal or higher than the archer’s current handicap, do nothing.
Annual Reassessment

At the start of each season (1st Jan for outdoors, 1st July for indoors), the handicaps need to be reassessed.

  1. Look at all the score handicaps of the last season
  2. Take the best 3 and average them to be the starting handicap for the new season.
  3. If they haven’t shot 3 rounds, average what has been shot with the start-of-season figure for the previous year.

NOTE: Any time in any of these calculations where averages are being taken, and the result is not a whole number, the results should be rounded down to the next whole number.

Worked example

Let’s take a look at the season of a fictional archer, a beginner with no existing handicap. The table below shows all of her scores for a variety of rounds shot through the season, and contains the following columns

  • (a) – Date the round was shot. For the purposes of handicaps and classifications, the outdoor season runs from the 1st January to the 31st December each year (even though many clubs disappear indoors for half of that), and the indoor season runs from the 1st July to the 30th June.
  • (b) – The round that was shot. For handicaps, any round listed in the handicap table can be used. There are no restrictions on age, gender or bowstyle (apart from indoor rounds where compounds score differently).
  • (c) – Score the archer shot on the round
  • (d) – The handicap of the score. This is found by looking up the score in the handicap tables. If the exact score is not listed in the tables (most of the time it won’t be) then the next highest handicap is taken.
  • (e) – The current handicap of the archer on the given date

We can see here how this archer starts with no handicap, and only after their first three rounds do we calculate the initial handicap by averaging the handicap of the first 3 scores.

After that the archer sometimes shoots scores which are worse than their current handicap, and so there is no change (the grey arrows). Sometimes, the new handicap is better (lower), than their existing handicap, so the two are averaged and then rounded to create the new handicap (shown in the coloured boxes).

At the start of the next season, regardless of what their handicap ended up at after the season’s shooting, the archers three best handicaps of the year are averaged to create the starting handicap for the 2024 season.

Now multiply it!

Life would be relatively simple for the records officer if each archer had just one handicap, but they might not.

First, shooting outdoors is quite a different discipline to shooting indoors and so each archer will have a completely separate indoor and outdoor handicap. The rules and procedures are the same, but the two are maintained completely independently.

Second, you need a separate handicap for each bowstyle. That means if someone routinely shot recurve, compound, barebow and longbow, both indoors and outdoors, the poor records officer might be tracking 8 separate handicaps for that archer, with all of the hassle and risk of error that might entail. Once again, my recommendation is to use software for this if you can.

Handicap Resources



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