How Are Bowling Handicaps Calculated? (Are They Fair?)

Are you trying to up your bowling game, but aren’t sure how to calculate your handicap?

Most bowlers use a bowling score calculator or handicap sheets available at their local alley. But understanding the underlying formulas used for calculating a bowler’s handicap can be incredibly useful for helping boost scores.

In this blog post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about calculating and using bowling handicaps.

What are bowling handicaps?

Bowling handicap is the perfect way to even out competition between players of various abilities.

This number, which is calculated based on each bowler’s average score, grants additional pins at the end of every game that is added to your total – so if you have a lower average than others in your group, more pins will be awarded for extra assistance! Handicaps make bowling games fairer and infinitely more fun as it gives everyone an equal chance at winning.

Handicap is vital in competitive leagues and tournaments, where players can vary significantly in terms of their skills. Thanks to handicapping, everyone has the chance to participate without being at a disadvantage; it facilitates fair play so that all participants have an opportunity for victory!

It is important to note that handicap does not guarantee victory. Rather, it serves as a way to level the playing field for all competitors and make the game enjoyable for everyone. And of course, with more practice and improvement comes lower handicaps needed.

How are bowling handicaps calculated?

how are bowling handicaps calculated

Calculating your bowling handicap is a pretty simple process. And here is the formula:

Your handicap = (base tournament score – your average score) x percentage factor

All you need to do is take your total pins scored over several games and divide it by the number of games played. Let’s say, for example, that in three games you earned 450 pins – then your average would be 150.

Once you’ve determined your league, it’s time to figure out the basis score. Typically this is a set value that all bowlers initially start with and varies depending on the type of league. For instance, leisure leagues could begin at 220 for their base score. Additionally, consider what percentage of that foundation score your particular league uses to compute handicaps; if they use 80%, then “80% of 220” may come up when inquiring about it.

Calculating your handicap is a straightforward process: subtract the basis score from your average. Let’s say, for example, that your average score is 150 and the basis score is 220; in that case, you’ll get 70 by subtracting 150 from 220.

Lastly, you should take the gap between your regular score and the base rating by multiplying it by the percentage that is used in your league. For instance, if there’s a difference of 70 customary points and an 80% utilization rate in the game, then just multiply 70 by 0.8 which will give you a handicap value of 56.

This additional mark would be added to every match outcome for bowlers at various skill levels so as to create fair competition among them all.

What does a 0 handicap mean in bowling?

Bowling at a 0 handicap is the gold standard for all bowlers since you’re now considered a pro!

To attain this prestigious level of expertise, you must sustainably roll higher scores than your typical performance. It may take time and commitment to reach that point, but it will be worth it when you finally join the ranks of elite players in any bowling league!

Bear in mind that even if your basic score stays the same, your handicap may alter depending on your weekly average. To stay ahead of changes and apply what’s required for success in particular leagues, be sure to understand their rules.

Once you’ve managed a 0 handicap rating though, you can feel secure knowing that you are an accomplished bowler who can keep up with any competitor!

Can you have a negative handicap in bowling?

No, it is actually not possible to have a negative handicap in bowling.

This is because the handicap system is designed to help level the playing field for all bowlers, regardless of skill level. The base score is simply the average of the highest-scoring bowlers in a league or tournament, and your handicap is calculated based on how your average score compares to that base score.

If your average score is below the base score, you will receive a positive handicap to increase your chances of winning. However, if your average score is higher than the base score, your handicap would only be 0, not negative.

Are bowling handicaps always acceptable to all players?

Views about bowling handicaps are divided; for some, it is a fair way to even the playing field, whereas others think that this practice dilutes the competition of the sport.

Those who advocate for bowling handicaps believe that it enhances the game by allowing people of all skill levels to play and compete together. This creates a more inclusive atmosphere, thus diminishing the possibility of one player decimating another in an imbalanced match-up. Instead, this makes for a thrilling contest where each side has an equal chance at victory!

Alternatively, opponents of bowling handicaps argue that it artificially levels the playing field and reduces the inherent competition. They believe that players should hone their abilities to achieve victory rather than receive assistance. Bowling without a handicap allows each player to showcase their natural talent in an even challenge against one another.

When determining whether to incorporate bowling handicaps or not, it is ultimately up to the individual league or tournament.


In summary, computing your bowling handicap is an effortless process: subtract your average score from the base tournament score and multiply that difference by the percentage factor.

This will provide you with a handicap value which is added to each game outcome in order to make sure all bowlers have equal chances of success regardless of skill level. Now that you know how this system works, rest assured that every match will be fun and competitively balanced!

Last updated on March 27, 2023