Similar to Golf, archers can maintain a handicap in order to help them determine how well they are shooting over a period of time. Archers maintain separate handicaps for indoor rounds and outdoor rounds, because of the different shooting conditions, distances, target sizes and overall difficulty.
Calculating the handicap value is quite complicated due to the different distances and target sizes involved, and the maths that goes in to trying to standardise all of them. To simplify this process, there are tables available in the GNAS Green Book (a copy is kept by the records officer in the club hut).
Your initial personal handicap is obtained by averaging the handicap values of your first 3 rounds, so until you have shot 3 rounds you will not have a handicap, and cannot take part in handicap competitions (more details follow below). These can be any three rounds recognised by Archery GB (previously known as GNAS) including Imperial Rounds or Metric Rounds. Your handicap is a number between 1 to 100, where 1 is so good it's nearly impossible to achieve. If the average of those 3 values isn't a whole number it is rounded up to the next whole number.
As you improve, your handicap will as well. This is because after every round you shoot and submit to the Records Officer (be aware you'll need to submit any scores you shoot at other clubs to the Records Officer yourself separately), they will calculate your handicap for that round and adjust your handicap accordingly. If you shoot better than your current handicap, your new and old handicap values are averaged, and rounded in the same manner as above. If you do not shoot better than your handicap your handicap value remains the same, so over a season your handicap cannot get worse, it can only get better (lower).
In essence your handicap value is the average of the best three shoots of the season, and gives you a means to track how well you are shooting compared to your previous results.
Throughout the year clubs will host Handicap Competitions. These competitions are designed to allow all the archers on the shooting line to compete with each other based on how consistently they are shooting and improving, and not based on their existing skill level. In essence a Handicap Competition can put a Novice and Olympic Archer on an equal basis for the medals.
Alongside the handicap value in the tables in the GNAS Green Book there are a set of "Allowances". If you shoot a round at the same level as your handicap, adding your round score and handicap allowance will result in a total of 1440. A total of less than 1440 means you've shot worse than your handicap value and a total of more than 1440 means you've shot better (and your handicap value may improve as mentioned above).
So if our Novice Archer has a handicap of 65, has a good day and shoots very well and has a total of 1490 and our Olympic Archer has a handicap of 20 but has a bad day ending on a total of 1430, the Novice would beat the Olympic Archer in the Handicap Competition (even though the Olympic Archer may have scored a lot more in the unadjusted score).
If you have any questions about the handicap system or what your current handicap is, please get in touch with the Records Officer.