Need a hand? How handicaps work in bowling

AMF League Bowling - The Masters

You might have heard golfers prattling on about their handicap - but did you know this system is used in bowling as well?

The concept is very much the same for both sports and the purpose is clear - to provide a level playing field for competitors of different abilities. You'll notice that when you first join a bowling league, you'll be assigned a handicap number that reflects your skill level and allows you to compete toe-to-toe with even the league's most skilled bowlers.

So how is a bowler's handicap determined?

It involves a bit of number crunching but it's a fairly straightforward method. First, the organisers of a league or tournament decide on a standard score against which they calculate each individual's handicap. This score is determined by taking the average score of the league's best bowler and setting a higher number. For instance, if the best bowler averages 200, the standard might be set 230.

Next, an individual bowler who wants their handicap calculated will take their average - usually based on their scores from the previous season - and subtract it from the standard. A bowler who averages 180 will therefore have a handicap of 50.

That's if the league they compete in uses a 100 per cent handicap system, of course. Sometimes a percentage system will be used.

For example, if the league has a handicap percentage of 70 per cent, 70 per cent of the bowler's handicap will be used as their actual handicap. For the bowler above who had a handicap of 50, their new handicap will therefore be 35.

It might sound like a lot of hassle just to come up with one number, but handicaps are essential to making the game fair and helping everyone have fun, regardless of their skill.

So head to an AMF league today, find out your handicap and take part in some action-packed team bowling!