How to Calculate Your Average Bowling Score

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Bowling averages are essential in league play, especially handicap leagues where your average determines your handicap. The United States Bowling Congress doesn't officially recognize a player's average until you've bowled at least 12 games, but you can calculate your average based on any number of games.

What is a Bowling Average?

Your average is the mean score of every game you've played. If you've only played a couple games, your average won't mean much. But if you're a dedicated amateur or pro bowler, it's important to know your average score in order to track your progress over time. Averages are also used to calculate a bowler's handicap, which is used to rank players during league and tournament play. 

Calculating Your Average

To determine your average bowling score, you need to know two things: the number of games you've played and the total number of points you've scored in those games. If you're a beginner, you probably won't have played too many games, but over time that number can add up so it's important to keep track of your record, whether that's on paper or using an app.

Here's an example of how to calculate a first-time bowler's average score after three games:

  • Add together each game's score. For this example, we'll use scores of 100, 126, and 98.
  • Divide the total by the number of games played. If we divide 324 by 3, we get 108.

Our new player's average score is 108 (not bad for a beginner!). Of course, math doesn't always work out in neat round numbers. If your calculation results in a decimal, just round up or down to the nearest number. As you improve, you may want to calculate your bowling average in different ways to gauge your performance. If you participate in league play, you can calculate your average from season to season, tournament to tournament, or even from year to year.

Calculating Your Handicap

Now, about that bowling handicap, for which your average is key. The United States Bowling Congress, which governs play in the U.S. defines a bowling handicap this way:

"Handicapping [is] 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."

To determine your bowling handicap, you'll first need to calculate your basis score and percentage factor. This will vary, depending on the league or tournament you're in, but in general, a basis score usually ranges from 200 to 220 or whatever is greater than the league's highest player average. The percentage of the handicap also varies but is commonly 80 percent to 90 percent. Check with your league's record keeper for the correct basis score. 

To calculate your handicap, subtract your average from the basis score and then multiply by the percentage factor. If your average is 150 and the basis score is 200, your subtraction result is 50. You then multiply that by the percentage factor. For this example, use 80 percent as the factor. That result is 40, and that is your handicap.

In scoring a game, you would add your handicap of 40 to your actual score to find your adjusted score. For instance, if your game score was 130, you would add your handicap of 40 to that score to find your adjusted score, 170.