Course Design

Below are the Arctic Orienteering Club’s guidelines for course design. Please also read Orienteering USA’s resources for local meet directors. Another great resource is the Course Design Presentation (PDF) given at the May 2, 2013 meet director training event.

Courses should be Fun

  • Avoid legs where the best route has lots of brush or is wet – challenging courses mean interesting/challenging navigation, not nasty bushwacking
  • Avoid placing controls that force unnecessary climb
  • Try to find control placements and legs that are scenic and pleasant
  • Avoid unnecessary river crossings
  • Don’t make the courses too long (guidance on length in distance and time): people rarely complain about courses being too short.
  • The first control should be relatively straightforward and perhaps on the easy side of normal to get people started without frustration and quickly out away from the start area
  • Avoid “bingo” controls – those are controls that you have to be extraordinarily luck to find
  • The purpose of the control flag is just to show orienteers where the punch is hung – that is, do not make them hunt for the control flag. The goal is to find the feature. Once the orienteer has found the feature, the control flag should be readily apparent.
  • Vary the lengths of legs. For expert-level courses, try to include one “epic” – a long leg that includes lots of interesting terrain.
  • Avoid long finishing legs
  • Use the “largest” map scale possible so features are legible. In order of decreasing preference:
    • 1:7,500
    • 1:10,000
    • 1:15,000 – especially difficult to read for our older orienteers

Courses should be Safe

  • Avoid areas where bear encounters are likely (i.e. near rivers when there are fish)
  • Avoid legs that require competitors to cross large roads
  • Avoid dangerous terrain, particularly on beginner courses
  • Avoid sending runners close to the edge of the map and try to bound the areas used for beginner courses by major features (roads, streams, lakes, etc)

Courses should be Interesting

  • The difficulty of the legs should be appropriate to the course
  • Strive to find interesting legs first, then figure out where you can place controls at the endpoints
  • Whenever possible, all legs should involve route choice – think about alternative routes – and navigation of the appropriate difficulty
  • Avoid placing controls such that competitors approach and depart from the same direction
  • Try not to have the angle on the map between two legs be less than 90 degrees
  • Avoid situations where competitors will approach the control from a handrail (i.e. trail) and then return to the same handrail for the next leg.
  • Consider finishing legs on trails with many route choices
  • For Red and Green – avoid catching features within 200m of a control
  • For Orange – have attack point or catching feature or handrail within 100 m.

Avoid the potential for disputes

  • Control placements should not tempt runners to punch controls out of order
  • Runners should not be tempted to run off the map or into areas “out of bounds”
  • If there is any question about the accuracy of the mapping at a control location, put the control somewhere else or fix the map.
  • Don’t place controls for different courses too close together
  • Don’t hide controls: All controls should be visible when you are at the mapped location (feature)

Beginner Courses

  • The above points about fun and safety are especially important
  • Make sure the courses aren’t too difficult
  • Start out with easy controls: consider making the first control visible from the start

Designing a Course

  • Design Courses on the map first
  • If the start/finish location has not already been specified, choose one based on the availability of handrail features for the beginner courses
  • Figure out legs with interesting navigation, then select control locations
  • Consider placing a common “GO” control near the finish so all finishers come in from the same direction.

Rules and suggestions related to various areas

  • Hilltop: area managers have asked that we do not hang controls on buildings around the parking areas. Also, avoid routing runners in the vicinity of the chalet, in case there is a wedding or other function there.
  • All areas, but especially Hilltop: don’t send runners through areas with lots of beetle-kill downfall.
  • All areas, but especially Service High: most people–even Red course runners–don’t enjoy extended bog/marsh slogs. Don’t make people choose between a 400 meter wade and a 1000 meter circumnavigation of a marsh.
  • Russian Jack: Avoid sending runners on the golf courses during the summer golfing season. If you have controls around the golf course, advise participants to be safe and respectful of golfers.