How Do Archery Handicaps Work? Calculate Your Handicap

I am going to be honest, this is one of the hardest topics to talk about in archery. It’s a technically complex system for scoring, standardizing and trying to ensure archers compete equally against each other.

Handicaps are used to enable archers of all standards to compete equally against each other by adding points onto an archer’s score at the end of the round depending on their ability. The lower an archer’s handicap, the fewer points get added to his score.

What is archery handicap?

An archery handicap is a number between 0 and 100. It is supposed to indicate the ability of an archer in a numeric scale. The lower the handicap the better the archer.

The handicap numbers don’t care for age, gender or bow style; regardless of this, the numbers set you on a different score according to your shots in each round. There are 3 specific benefits from this system, although it is hard to understand:

  1. It helps archers to monitor their progress.
  2. It makes easy to compare between different rounds.
  3. Enables archers with different experience levels to compete on equal terms.

Is my handicap number from indoor archery affecting my outdoor number?

Thankfully, it is not. Each archer has a different handicap number from each discipline they compete at. That being said, if you compete at indoors, or outdoors, or with compound and recurve; each of these will have a different handicap number.

What happens if I don’t have handicap number?

In the case of an archer that yet not have a handicap, the average handicap from his first 3 rounds will be consider your initial handicap. That means that you don’t have to worry, you can just get it by shooting and staying focused.

In my experience, this is a good way for coaches to follow their athletes in the world of archery, as a changing handicap score over time can be monitored to see if an archer is improving. For example a coach might get an archer to tweak a slight area of their technical style and monitor the results over the next few competitions to see if there was an improvement. If you’re an individual, don’t waste your time getting worried about the handicap or trying to calculate your handicap while getting your round score. When you’re out there, focus only on shooting and getting your proper score written on the boards. Anything else is a distraction.

Do competitions always use handicap?

Most competitions calculate the archer’s handicap based on each round and on the entire competition. But it is not a number that will determine if you won or lost the competition. It is a number for measurements reasons only. So don’t be worry about it, just use it as a tool for monitoring improvement.

For example, some of my friends use the handicap to keep track of any changes they do to their bows. If they modify something and see a downgrade on the handicap, meaning a higher number than usual, they realize something must be wrong with their changes and revert back. Maybe they are not comfortable with the new stabilizer, or the sight is not properly placed. It’s a good early warning indicator and can help an archer continuously improve. Nevertheless, don’t get afraid of making changes and seeing your handicap change, whenever you change something on your bow, or the entire bow, give it time for your body and mind to get used to it rather than seeing one tournament of worse shooting.

Does handicap matter if I am not competing?

It actually doesn’t really matter if you’re competing either, it won’t determine if you win or lose, it is a tool more than something that you should worry about. But if you’re not competing at all; there is no real need for you to calculate this. If you are just doing it for fun and you don’t want to put numbers to your skill sets, then forget about this mathematical issue. Math might take the fun away from the hobby if you get obstructed just by the numbers when the objective is to have fun!

What is a good score in archery?

In a tournament, in the 300 score modality with a recurve bow, 300 being the maximum possible (perfect!) score; I consider anything above 200 as a good score for me, but different archers have different standards. It’s like getting a 66.7% mark on a test. By getting it into percentages, it doesn’t sound that amazing, but trust me, it is a good indicator, especially at beginner level, someone in their first few years of competing, it is a great number to aim for.

In World Archery, the maximum score during the first elimination or classification round is 720 points. The same percentage applies to this score where a good score will be around 475 points.

How to calculate your handicap?

Calculating your handicap is fairly straightforward, if a little time consuming! Before attempting to manually calculate your handicap you can use an online calculator like this one from

If you still want to calculate your handicap by hand we’ll go through an example here. Firstly you’ll need the handicap tables. TeamGB (UK archery) have published a list of handicap tables which you can find here. All you have to do is add up your total score at the end of the round and find the table for your event. Lets say you were taking part in a York round (6 dozen arrows at 100 yards, 4 dozen arrows at 80 yards and 2 dozen arrows at 60 yards), you would just add up your score, lets say you shoot 1015, your handicap for the round would be 31.

Your handicaps are then averaged out, let’s use an example; of an archer who shoots 3 outdoor rounds with handicaps of 64, 70 and 69, which should be provided by the competition itself (you could check in the tables if you want!); then the initial handicap is 68. Here is the mathematical solution:  64 + 70 + 69 = 203, 203 ÷ 3 = 67.6, round up = 68.

To summarize, handicap is a good measure to give numbers to your shot consistency and skill. It is a great way to know if you’re improving your shooting by monitoring your handicap over time, it can show you if a modification in your training or equipment is actually paying off. But and this is a big but; don’t get stuck up consistently monitoring this number, it’s like looking at your weight every time you eat something. It will drive you crazy, that number doesn’t determine if you’re good or not, use it after competitions to track your progress, but don’t let it drive you in every step of the way.

As always, keep practicing, stay consistent and most importantly, have fun.

Happy shooting!