## handicap leagues

Comments or questions about bowling not specifically mentioned in the other categories.

### handicap leagues

Handicaps in most sports are used to give participants with less ability an opportunity to compete with more talented players. Bowling used to conform to this description as handicaps were added to the scores achieved by low average bowler’s scores in order to give them an a chance against higher average bowlers. Most handicap leagues have been based on the handicap being calculated as 80% of the difference between the bowlers average and 200. Using this method a bowler with an average 150 would have a handicap of 40 while a bowler with an average of 190 would have an handicap of 8, and a bowler with an average of 200 or more would not get any handicap.

There have been other handicap systems used. For example using 100% of the difference between the average and the ‘base’ number of 200, and 90% and a 190 base number. There have even been some handicaps that issue negative handicaps for those bowlers that have an average over the base number. An example of this is to give a bowler with an average of 210 a minus 8, which is 80% of the difference to 200.

In recent years many bowlers have been able to achieve averages in excess of 200, and as a result those bowlers lost the handicaps. In order to restore handicaps to the bowlers who average 200 or more the calculation of handicaps has been changed to use a base number of 220 or 230 or even 240. In most cases the calculation still uses 80%.

If the base has been moved to 220 a bowler with an average of 210 would get a handicap of 8 and the bowler with an average of 150 would get a handicap of 56, the bowler with a 190 average would be given 24, and the 200 average bowler would get 16.

The purpose of providing handicaps should be to encourage bowlers with lower averages to compete with those with higher averages. Giving bowlers with high averages handicaps when they did not have them before does not conform with the primary reason of providing handicaps for lower average bowlers.

The lower average bowler have may received a larger handicap, but has not really got any closer to the high average bowler. Because a 210 average bowler now gets an 8 handicap, the additional 16 awarded to the 150 bowler has not kept pace relative to the 210 bowler.

As a general rule high percentages used to calculate the handicaps are beneficial to low average bowlers and low percentages are beneficial to high average bowlers. Scratch leagues effectively use a percentage of zero. If the percentage were also changed to 90% for example, the lower average bowler would make some advance, relative to the high average bowler.

The following tables show the different handicaps for bowlers with averages of 150, 200, and 210, using 70%, 80%, and 90%, and the traditional 200 base and the newer 220 base.

Table 1 Base of 200
Average ------ 70%--------- 80% -------- 90%

150 ------------ 35 ----------- 40 ----------- 45
200 ------------- 0 ------------- 0 ------------- 0
210 ------------- 0 ------------- 0 ------------- 0

Table 2 Base of 220
Average ----- 70% --------- 80% -------- 90%

150 ---------- 49 ------------ 56 ----------- 63
200 ---------- 14 ------------ 16 ----------- 18
210 ----------- 7 ------------- 8 ------------ 9

A number of years ago many bowlers had a goal to become scratch bowlers. That goal has now been achieved by so many that it is curious that many of these bowlers are new getting handicaps again.

It is time to put some fairness back into the handicap leagues.
Jim H

Posts: 94
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 2:06 pm

Excellent write-up Jim.

I wrote something equally lengthy and then got logged off and lost it, so now i have to go shorter. Probably be better that way.

Many people misunderstand the impact of incorrect handicap base. Incorrect, meaning not as high as the highest average bowler in the league or competition. USBC recommends 100% of highest average bowler in the competition last i checked (it was ABC then). It is prudent to round off to nearest 5 pin.

Jim H wrote:

"The purpose of providing handicaps should be to encourage bowlers with lower averages to compete with those with higher averages. [i]Giving bowlers with high averages handicaps when they did not have them before does not conform with the primary reason of providing handicaps for lower average bowlers. "[/i]

[b]The first sentence is an excellent reason for HCP. The second sentence is incorrect and i will explain. [/b] To provide a system where you use HCP to allow bowlers with lower averages to compete with the higher average bowlers, you must also provide HCP to high average bowlers to put them on level with very high average bowlers. Consider the 210 Avg bowler in a 80% of 200 league, that has some 220 avg. bowlers, and you raise the base to 220. Yes, the 210 Avg will now get 8 pins handicap, but every bowler with 200 and below will get 16 pins more!
The 210 Avg. (or his/her team) had an unfair advantage before getting the 8 pins and it was fixed by everyone 200 or below getting 16 and the 210 getting 8.

Jim H also wrote:

"There have even been some handicaps that issue negative handicaps for those bowlers that have an average over the base number. An example of this is to give a bowler with an average of 210 a minus 8, which is 80% of the difference to 200."

This system is no different in the w/l column than 80% of 220 when no bowler is above 220. They are identical. Every single bowler gets exactly 16 pins more in the 80% of 220 method. But, there is a very good reason to adopt this system with negative numbers! You never need to adjust the basis. It is built in because of the negative numbers.

[b]HCP = 0.8 ( 200- AVG) and negative numbers apply [/b]

So everyone, now that Jim and I have explained handicap basis. What % of base do you like and why?

M Black
M Black

Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2003 5:58 pm
Location: Wyoming

One thing i forgot to explain was that there is also no unfairness caused by having a HCP basis that is well over the highest average bowler. It just means bigger numbers for everyone. I bring this up because an association could simpley vote in something like so and such % of 250, for all HCP leagues or whatever number would be so high that no way would anyone in a HCP league there average over this. If it was 80% of 225 with no one over 225 and raised to 80% of 250, every bowler would have 0.8 x 25 = 20 pins more and thus have no influecne in the W/L column.

M Black
M Black

Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Dec 05, 2003 5:58 pm
Location: Wyoming

Just by coincidence I was doing a crossword puzzle recently and one clue was 'Disadvantages imposed on some competitors to equalize chances'. The answer was 'handicaps'. There is a general perception that handicaps are used to equalize chances, and I still wonder if the handicap systems in bowling really do equalize chance of lower average bowlers.

M Black asked for some people to say which handicap systems they like. I would like to be convinced that the systems are fair, as I think there are some basic faults at the present time.
Jim H

Posts: 94
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 2:06 pm

### handicaps

Since I have finally gotten through to most of our leagues to raise the percentage of handicap, to fairness to all,most leagues are very even now. most use 90%, and use a basis higher then the top average in the house, say 220, since all of our leagues seem to have a mixture of high , med, and low average bowlers. I know of 2 leagues this year that went down to the last week to decide the champions. one 14 team league had a difference of 11 games between first and last place at the end of the year. another had a tie for second half winner and had to go to a rolloff, then tied again, and went to a 10 frame rolloff to decide the winner. Isn't that what we all want, is to have is a chance to compete and not be shut out halfway through the league and have people dropping out because they feel they have no chance.

wendall watkins
association manager
armadillosam

Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2006 8:48 pm

Thanks for the information. I suspected that changing the percentage as well as the base would result in closer finishing league positions. Your experience confirms my suspicion. Does anyone out there have a similar experience? Or even an experience that in contradictory?

The more results that are posted the better.
Jim H

Posts: 94
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 2:06 pm

### Re: handicap leagues

When determining handicap for a mixed league, there are two main issues to contend with:

A) A handicap system that is too low makes it difficult for lower average bowlers to compete for a league title;
B) A handicap system that is too high rewards sandbagging, especially for sweepstakes.

The end result of both of those situations is people choosing not to return for future seasons because they believe they are not getting a fair shake. So to determine the best way to resolve those issues, we need to look at what the current trends are, if they fall into either of the above categories and how they should be modified.

Many leagues now have handicap systems in place that are 90-100% of 220-230. This is too high of a handicap system. Bowling has a finite score system (0-300), so a 215 bowler has much less room for improvement (shooting above 215) than he does for decline (shooting less than 215). Conversely, the 120 average bowler has the opposite more room for shooting above average than below. For equity, this demands that a handicap system be less than 100%. Further, it takes an understanding of how scoring works in bowling to realize that lane conditions come into play in order to be able to average over 200. On a tough condition, a good bowler who stays clean and gets 30 marks with no doubles is in the 570's, a 190 something average. On a easier condition, that same bowler can easily shoot 700, an average in the 230's. Unless you want the league title to be determined by the lane conditions, you need to err on the lower side of the handicap system, so that skill & performance prevails.

It is a given that on any given night, a lower average team can beat a higher average team even with a lower handicap system. However, over the course of a season, a higher average team will end up winning more often. If we are going to accept that a lower handicap system is better for producing results that reward performance, we must structure the league to give the lower average teams an opportunity to overcome that. The simplest solution is a split league, where the winners of 1 half play the winners of the 2nd half. The league title then comes down to one series and as everyone knows, that makes it very possible for any average team to win. While I have been on teams that had the most total wins for a league but never won a half, it was no different than being on a baseball team that had the best regular season record & got bounced in the playoffs.

Finally, sweepstakes, being a one week "league" with money at stake demands a lower handicap system. The opportunity to have a major advantage by sandbagging is too great for some when a too high handicap system is in place. Since it is only one series, the lower average bowlers have a very good chance to win if they perform well while the higher average bowlers are not shut out if the lane conditions that night are less conducive to high scores. This also comes into play for leagues that travel (to Las Vegas or Atlantic City) for sweepstakes and bowl on lanes different than that which the averages where established at.

Based on the above, I have found the most fair and equitable handicap system is 90% of 200 to 210. When combined with a split season for the league championship, it discourages sandbagging, rewards performance and improvement (even among higher average bowlers) and gives everyone a fair chance for both the league title and sweepstakes.
RSM789

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:43 pm

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