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The concept of a sports handicap helps to provide some means of equalizing the competition between persons of various levels of skill within the sport. There is not any one universal method of determining the handicap for all types of sports, although the basic principles of creating a level playing field and providing each player a decent change to excel is part of all sports handicaps.
The underlying function of the handicap is to encourage scoring processes that will allow all players a chance to excel. In golf, for example, to determine the current handicap of a player, it is necessary to know the number of strokes over par that the player averaged over four rounds of golf. This provides the personal handicap for the golfer. To determine how much it will be honored during an actual scoring, it is important to compare the handicaps of the participants. For example, if one player has a handicap of ten and is playing a person with one of two, the player with the ten will be allowed one extra stroke on eight different holes. These extra strokes are usually applied to the most difficult holes on the course.
A different approach to determining a handicap takes place in the game of polo. Here, it is based in goals. A rating between two and ten is assigned, based on the determination of the worth of the player to the team. The cumulative individual ratings of the players determines the current handicap for the whole team. At this point, the handicap for both of the competing teams is compared, and the difference between the teams results in the award of points to the lower rated team before the competition begins.
Bowling is another example of a sport that makes use of the handicap. This is based on the bowlers accumulated average. A lower average for one player when compared to the average of other players who are competing will result in the issuing of a handicap that is understood to help equalize the competition in a given event. Some leagues choose to arrive at the handicap in a manner similar to golfing, where it is based on a short period of activity. In other cases, the bowling handicap is based on the average of the last two or three completed games.