Archery Handicaps & Classifications Explained


The process of handicapping is to enable archers to:

  1. compete with archers of different abilities or using different bow types. It is equalised on the basis of how well they perform compared to their best performances and also
  2. allows each archer to gauge how they are performing over the course of the year.

Each score an archer achieves in any round will have a handicap value assigned to it, ranging between 0 and 100. The better the score, the lower the handicap. It also allows different rounds to be compared.

The handicap system involves three stages:

  1. Initial assessment – For an initial handicap to be obtained, an archer must first shoot three complete rounds. An average is taken of the handicap rating of each score, rounded up to the next larger whole number.
  2. Ongoing assessment – The process of handicap reduction is continuous and will be reduced every time an archer shoots a round that that is better than their current handicap. An average of the current handicap and the handicap of the round shot is taken and rounded up as before. If this handicap rating is lower, than this will be the new handicap taken forward, otherwise it will remain the same. For a handicap to improve, an archer must shoot a round with a handicap rating at least 2 better than their current handicap.
  3. Annual reassessment of handicaps – At the beginning of each season (1st Jan for outdoors; 1st July for indoors) all handicaps are reassessed. The best three handicaps achieved over the previous season are taken and the average taken. This is the handicap rating that will be taken over into the new season.

 At the end of the year (usually at the AGM) a trophy is given to the archer with the biggest handicap improvement over the past year.

Handicaps for different bow disciplines (recurve, longbow, compound, barebow etc) are calculated in the same way, but if you shoot more than one discipline you can obtain a handicap for each.

Handicap shoots – Many competitions have a handicap adjusted element. This is where novice and experienced archers are put on an equal level. Each score will have an allowance added to it according to the archers’ handicap to give a handicap adjusted score. Novices often win the handicap adjusted medals as they will most likely beat their handicap scores by a large margin.


The classification scheme is a progressive grading scale that require archers to achieve different levels of scores, depending on gender, age-group, and bow-style. The higher the grading, the further you will have to shoot. The grades are as follows:

  • Unclassified
  • Third Class
  • Second Class
  • First Class
  • Bowman (Junior)
  • Master Bowman
  • Grand Master Bowman.

As with handicaps, three qualifying rounds are required to achieve each class. These are also reassessed at the end of each year.

To achieve Master Bowman, Junior Master Bowman and Grand Master Bowman, 3 scores must be obtained from Record Status Tournaments and submitted to GNAS.

Classifications can also be obtained for indoor shoots and these are graded as A-H.

Please note your handicap and classification can be improved at any time on the field, not just at competitions, as long as you shoot a complete round and submit your scores. This can be made either online via our new submission form or in the record books that will still be available in the clubhouse.

Procedure To Obtain Classifications and Handicaps

In target archery formal shooting takes the form of rounds, where a round comprises of a stated number of arrows shot over stated distances. There are many different types of round, for example a Western round involves shooting 4 dozen arrows at 60 yards followed by 4 dozen arrows at 50 yards. A listing of the different types of round is displayed in the Clubhouse.

When a member shoots one of these rounds, either at the club or in competition elsewhere, they should submit their score to the Records Officer who will then calculate the handicap value and classification for that score and round.

A handicap is finally given after three such scores have been submitted and an average of the three handicap values has been calculated. You can improve your handicap over the course of the year if the average of the previous scores is better than your current handicap.

The Handicap Officer, using the scores, handicaps and tables will also define personal classifications, i.e. 3rd Class, 2nd Class, 1st Class, Bowman, Master Bowman, Grand Master Bowman.

You can achieve 3rd, 2nd, 1st or BM (Bowman) classification at any club shoot or competition or any time you’re on the field. You need to have 3 scores in a particular classification category in order to obtain a classification. You can only classify for MB (Master Bowmen) and GMB (Grand Master Bowman) having submitted 3 scores to GNAS, from Record Status Shoots / Tournaments.

 Should you require any further details on handicaps or classifications please just ask the Records Officer (Phil Green) who will be glad to help.