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How To Calculate Bowling Handicap

Many bowlers, including newcomers or beginners in the game, do not understand the system of how to calculate bowling handicap. It is important to point out to you new bowlers that the same bowling scoring system is used universally and, therefore, handicap in bowling is universal in its use during competitive aspects of the game.

Most amateur bowling leagues and tournaments utilize a bowling handicap system. Learning how to calculate bowling handicap will allow you to plan and to compete against other bowlers with varying levels of skill and ability and have an equal chance of winning.

A bowling handicap is a percentage of the difference between your average and a basis average.

If you’ve never bowled in a league, don’t worry. Leagues assign you an average until you establish one or apply your initial average retroactively as soon as you bowl a few games.

Ask your league or tournament officials what basis score and percentage factor they use. The basis score is a high score intended to be more than any individual bowler’s average. Typically, basis scores range from about 200, 210, or 220.

The percentage factor is used to calculate your handicap and will usually be 80, 90, or 100 percent, but may vary in special competitions.

To find your average score, add the scores from all of your official league games, then divide by the number of games you bowled.

For example, if you have three games with scores of 140, 146, and 156, you have a total series score of 442 pins. Divide your series score by three for your per game average which is 147.3 pins per game. Always drop an fraction of a pin. Your official average in this example then works out to 147.

Subtract your average score from the basis score and multiply the result by the percentage factor to calculate your bowling handicap. Suppose the basis score is 200 and the percentage factor is 90 percent. If your average is 147, you have (200-147) X 0.90 = 47.7. Again, drop the fraction. Your handicap in this example is 47 pins per game.

Add the handicap to your actual score for each game. For instance, if you have a game in which you score 160 and your handicap is 47, your adjusted score is 207.


The United States Bowling Congress (USBC), the sanctioning body for bowling making the rules and regulations of play, defines handicapping as the means of placing bowlers and teams of varying degrees of bowling skill on as equitable a basis as possible for competition against each other.

The object of a league is to enjoy yourself and have some fun with your teammates and with others in your league. Handicap leagues usually bring out goodwill in most of the bowlers and an atmosphere of friendly competition emerges. Bowling in handicap tournaments can be rewarding both by remaining competitive because of the handicap system and because of the enjoyment brought forth by competing for prizes or monies.

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