How to Calculate Bowling Handicap? Method & Importance

Bowling is a fun game you can opt for in your leisure time; however, it is also an official sport. Yes, there are bowling leagues and tournaments with proper rules. One important rule that everyone must know before participating in a bowling tournament is the handicap number rule.

The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) has introduced the handicap term to provide a fair chance for entry-level bowlers to play against other skilled players. So, how to calculate bowling handicap is something you must know before applying for a bowling league. 

In this article, learn how the handicap rule works, easy calculation techniques, and the importance of handicap scores. 

Handicap in Bowling

In bowling, the handicap is a method where a numeric value is assigned according to the player’s skill. This set value is then added to the scores at the game’s end, concluding the total score.

 The bowling handicap rule allows players of different skill sets to compete with each other fairly. It gives the confidence to amateur players to participate in leagues and fairly play opposite most advanced players. Although bowling isn’t an Olympic sport, check why bowling is not an Olympic sport, but there are international leagues and tournaments for bowling. 

You can term it as a ‘bonus’ score to the low-level players that will be added to their score at the end of the game. If your handicap number is larger than the number added to your scores will also be more significant.

Let’s take an example of a player assigned a handicap value of 135 while playing games. If They score 90 points, then after adding a handicap value (90+135), the player’s total score will be 225 points.

Bowling Handicap Calculator

When you participate in a league, the secretary will assign you a handicap number after testing your skills. However, you must also know how that formula works. Handicap number changes as your practice becomes stronger over time. It would help if you learned the calculation to do it independently.

The formula used is (Basis score from the league – Average scores of a player) x Percentage Factor.

1. Base Score

First, you need to know the base score to calculate your bowling handicap. The base score is also known as the base average of the game you intend to play, usually the scores from the most recently played game of the tournament. 

This average represents the player’s skill level without the bowling handicap. The number is intended to be greater than the average of the best player. For example, if the average score of the best player in the previous game is 210, then the base average assigned by the league can be 230 or 240.

2. Average Score

The next step is to find your average score. The bowling average calculator means adding scores from five previous matches and dividing them by 5. This score will give you the average of your scoring tendency in multiple games.

For example, your scores from the previous five games are 140, 145, 143, 150, and 152. So, (140+145+143+150+152)/5, the answer will be 146. To peek into the possible highest score in a bowling game, you can check the highest score in bowling.

Read also: Average bowling score – 6 Sneaky Methods to Improve the Score

3. Percentage Factor

The percentage factor is not calculated; the league assigns a predetermined value. It can be termed as a percentage of the difference between the basis score and the player’s average determined by the handicap rule. 

For example, if you get a percentage factor of 82% from the league or organization, your handicap score will look like.

4. Doing the Math

Now, let’s go back to the initial handicap formula we discussed. Put the calculated values in it, do the math, and Voila! Your handicap score is there. 

Handicap Number= (Basis score from the league – Average scores of a player) x Percentage Factor

Basis score= 230

Average score= 145

Percentage factor= 82%

Putting values

Handicap Number= (230-145) x82% = 69.7

So, according to this example, your handicap score after rounding off will be 70. It means that your handicap number grants you 70 pins per match. At the end of every game, 70 additional points will be added to calculate your total score.

Importance of Bowling Handicap

The bowling handicap is essential in various ways; here are specific points that will discuss its importance further.

1- Fair competition

The foremost purpose of calculating bowling handicaps is to provide a fair chance to entry-level players in tournaments. Even if their skills could be better, they can play against highly skilled professionals and get an opportunity to learn more about bowling through competition.

2 – Motivation

Handicap numbers can motivate mid-skilled or amateur bowlers to improve their game. Players will try to increase their bowling skills to chase high average scores. This number system promotes healthy completion and more players’ involvement in the leagues.

3 – Balanced Teams

One of its other essential points is that it balances the teams. With individuals of different skill levels in both teams, handicap number ensures a fair play chance so both teams can win the game equally.

4 – Engaging New Comers

This is an exciting way to attract newcomers to play in leagues and tournaments to create diversity in bowling. Beginners often feel discouraged from playing against skilled players, and handicap allows them to level their skills and participate without pressure. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Handicap

Well, the coin holds two sides, so the handicap rule. Where it is a favor for amateur players, many skilled players do not support this rule. According to them, granting bonuses cannot be the right way to motivate new players and impacts their winning chances.

Promotes fair competitionPotential for gaming the system
Encourages participationDifficulty comparing scores
Levels the playing fieldLimited representation of actual skill
Motivates improvementComplex calculations
Creates balanced teamsInconsistencies across leagues
Enhances enjoyment
Attracts and engages newcomers

Wrap Up

Closing the discussion on how to calculate bowling handicap, now you are fully aware of the method and calculation. You can do it yourself or ask a bowling supervisor to help you. The handicap gives amateur players an advantage, allowing them to play in leagues with confidence and motivation. It adds versatility to the bowling game, allowing fair play. 

Share your opinion regarding the bowling handicap. Is it a fair rule or not? 


The handicap is simply the percentage of the difference between your average score and the fundamental score of the game. This number allows you equal chances of winning against a skilled player.

Scratch scoring is the basic term used in bowling to represent the number of scores a player scored in the bowling match without any handicap or additions.

This score is considered the high score in the game of bowling; it is only possible if you do 11 consecutive strikes without missing any, and in your 12th strike, you hit nine pins. 

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