Thank you for agreeing to plan an event. Orienteering is very labour intensive. This information will help you work towards a successful day with the Controller and Organiser. The club pays a km rate for three round trips to the mapping area from Dunedin for the Planner. The Treasurer will also reimburse other expenses (e.g. photocopying) on submission of receipts.


Different events require different courses and approaches to planning. Most of this information addresses the planning of standard club and OY events. The primary focus of course setting is to get good legs between controls - sites can be easy, but you want route choice between them.

Summer/Schools Series

These are in-town events with three courses primarily designed for school students, using clipcards and punch (metal) stakes/flags:

  • White, 1-2km - for beginning orienteers
  • Yellow, 2-3km - for improving orienteers with a little experience.
  • Orange 3km+ - for those with some experience.

Sprint Series

2 courses are offered - Whitey/Yellow (because urban maps are often very difficult to set a straight White course on) and an Orangey level course (because it's often difficult to get Red level sites on urban maps). These are run with SI timing.

Orienteer of the Year Events

About 4 events per year are part of the club’s OY series (check the event schedule on the website). At OY events, six courses are offered: OY events should run with the SI timing system.

  • Course 1. Long Red (60 mins+ EWT)as physically and technically hard as you can make it
  • Course 2. Medium Red (40-45 mins)
  • Course 3. Short Red (25-30 mins) physically easy but as technical as possible
  • Course 4. Orange (40-45 mins)
  • Course 5. Yellow (30 mins)
  • Course 6. White (20 mins)

Otago Champs

Use the new (2004) NZOF approved 8 course combinations with 10 year age classes.


Good course planning aims to provide challenges appropriate to each orienteer, provide an enjoyable experience and ensure a fair competition, not dependent on luck. Planning must take into account the technical difficulty of the map (scale, detail), physical difficulty of the area (e.g. climb), seasonal changes which affect vegetation, underfoot conditions (particularly for the youngest and oldest competitors) and any land use restrictions (such as the need to avoid crop paddocks or dangerous areas) that the landowner has specified.

The Planner should have an understanding and appreciation of what makes a good course, gained from personal experience. The Planner’s work is checked by the Controller: this is essential because of the numerous opportunities for error that can have adverse consequences.


  1. Plan legs, not controls. Each leg should have a purpose with its own particular challenge. Avoid unnecessary controls.
  2. Avoid excessive climb (total climb/length of no more than 4% on each course is recommended). Legs should involve contouring rather than straight up or down travel.
  3. Provide a variety of leg lengths and difficulties: force competitors to use a range of techniques and running speeds
  4. Try to use the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the map. No one enjoys fighting their way through dense undergrowth.
  5. Participants should not have to retrace steps at any point of the course.
  6. With more experienced orienteers handrails should be avoided and catching features should be more remote from the control. Path runs or a leg where you duck in off a path to a control and then immediately out to the track should be avoided.
  7. The Planner must always field check the accuracy of the map and avoid using areas where map errors may confuse the orienteer. In particular, areas around controls must be accurately mapped.
  8. Avoid legs that encourage competitors to cross forbidden or dangerous areas

Control placement

  1. Controls must never be hidden. When the orienteer locates the control feature the control must be clearly visible. Orienteering is not a treasure hunt.
  2. Controls must be placed accurately according to the control description and the control circle on the map.
  3. Elevated features are more appropriate as control sites with beginners. Depressed features can be used with more experienced orienteers.
  4. Do not place controls in a position where the orienteer is tempted to cheat by crossing an out of bounds area or by taking controls out of order.
  5. There should only be a very short run to the start triangle and it should be impossible for people waiting to start to see which way competitors go from there.
  6. Competitors should orienteer as close to the finish as possible. The run in from the last control should be short and, ideally, not uphill.


At all times during the planning, consult the Controller if you need advice.

At Least Six Weeks before the Event

  1. Start planning. It takes time. Don’t leave it too late.
  2. You will need a current copy of CONDES on a Windows PC. Download this from the CONDES website and then contact the committee for the access code to fully install it.
  3. Contact the Maps Officer to obtain the most up-to-date OCAD version of the map.
  4. If possible, find out who set the last event on that map, have a chat to them, and make sure that the last map they used is the version you have been sent.
  5. Make contact with landowners and talk through your plans with them. Keep in touch throughout the planning period.They may wish to set aside some out-of-bounds areas.
  6. Familiarise yourself with the area with a field visit as soon as possible (this can be before or after you make the first planning steps on paper). Watch for any changes that will require map corrections.
  7. Any required map-changes will have to be edited on the OCAD map file. THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE BY SOMEONE WITH THE REQUISITE SKILLS. Ask your Controller to make the map corrections for you. Ensure that name of that map version, or amendment, is somewhere on the final map.
  8. Decide on courses to be planned. Consult the Controller.
  9. Start with where the assembly area and car park will be. Try to situate the start and finish nearby, but avoid a long run in. Make the finish a pleasant place for families and friends to wait in. Waiting competitors must not be able to see route choices made by those who have started. Competitors should be faced with orienteering problems right from the start and right to the finish.
  10. Sketch out some possible course shapes of the required lengths. One idea is to draw them ‘backwards’ from the finish using the best parts of the map area. The start should be on a linear feature. All other things being equal, it is best to have the assembly, start and finish areas close to each other.
  11. Having decided on course shapes and distances, start planning legs. Exact control sites can be selected later. It is the leg that is important - controls mark the start and finish of a leg.
  12. Choose control sites, avoiding dog legs, leaving the same way another course approaches from, hidden/bingo controls relying on luck, and inaccuracies in the map near controls. Remember, control sites must be marked by a distinct feature on the map.
  13. Now - or before now - is a good time to run the courses past the Controller. He/she may want to suggest some changes before a joint or separate field visit. Modify your courses as necessary.
  14. Field check each course to make sure it is fair. Things will look different on the ground. Modify your courses as necessary. If the map is wrong in a particular area, don't use that area.
  15. Send a copy of your Condes file to the Controller.

Two to three weeks before the event

  1. If you haven’t done so already, contact the Controller and arrange to go around the courses together. At this stage you should have all the courses planned, drawn on maps and control descriptions written out. The Controller’s job is to check that what you have planned is correct. Be prepared to alter your courses where suggested.
  2. Once the Controller has agreed to your courses then double check with them that all the map corrections have been made.
  3. Check the current Committee List to see who is storing the Equipment. The control stakes and flags may be at another location to the caravan. Arrange to collect an appropriate number of control flags, numbered stakes, water bottles for the course and (if required) tape. Remember to get some spare controls and flags.
  4. Allocate a numbered control stake to each control site and finalise the control descriptions using the number on the stakes or the SI boxes. CONDES will produce the control descriptions [Symbols and words where required]. Photocopy enough control descriptions for the event, for at least Red courses, and not really necessary for Yellow or White courses.
  5. It will spoil all your hard work if a description or control code is wrong. It also spoils the competition for everyone involved. Therefore, get the Controller to make a final check of everything. It is important this is not left too late.

At least a week before the Event

  1. Contact the Organiser. Provide clear details where the start, finish and assembly areas will be located, and where you want the caravan, toilets, tents etc. It is best to provide the organiser with a sketch map. Discuss setup times and anticipate any special or potentially confusing situations (e.g. schools series events)
  2. Write up two A4-A3 size Competitor Information notices (one for the Event Noticeboard, one for inside the Caravan) showing for each course:
    1. the colour and/or number of the course,
    2. the length of the course (as the crow flies between each control),
    3. the amount of climb,
    4. and the number of controls.
  3. Any other information such as late map corrections, physical ability required or any out of bounds areas should also be detailed although the latter should appear on the map as well. If the Start, Finish and Assembly areas are far apart, make sure everyone knows how far it is so that they can allow enough time.
  4. Your Controller will need to do a Health and Safety form. See templates at the bottom of this page.
  5. Check the website to see who the Sport Ident operator (holder of the club computer) is - your Controller should know. Email the .xml file from Condes to the SI person for the event 10 days in advance. (In Condes, go to Export, Event Data, Select All, and then Export.) No other changes to control order or numbers should happen after this (your Controller and you can still make minor course description changes, or minor control site amendments - these don't affect the data
  6. Generate your map print copies via the Export as PDF menu in Condes. Include an All Controls map for you to put out/collect controls with.
  7. Generate the Route Gadget maps. This is via Export, Export maps and courses via Bitmap. Change File Type to JPG. Change the print resolution to 300dpi. Generate 2 map files. One Blank Map, and one All Controls.
  8. Generate one last file for Route Gadget. Back in Condes, go to Export, Event Data, and change the version to 2.0 (3.0 will have been saved by default for the version above), then Select All. Save this version of the course data as something different, eg: Course data for Route Gadget.
  9. Email the 2 maps and that 2.0 version .xml file to webmaster at in advance of the event, so it can be put up as soon as possible after your event.
  10. Contact John Skinner (john at colour copy dot com) who prints the maps for our events. Discuss with the Controller how many of maps each course you think you might need. The link here has information on actual competitor numbers from previous events. Waterproof paper is used for all our events. Include in that print job control descriptions, H&S plan, event information sheets, etc.

One to Two Days Before the Event

Depending if it is private or public land you may be able to put out some or all of the controls, tape and water. A general guide is that you should allow 20 minutes per control depending on the terrain.

For Summer Series events, you could do a master punch card for checking clipcards at the Finish.

On the Day

  1. Remember to bring all the maps and the control descriptions with you! These are your responsibility.
  2. Allow plenty of time to put out the rest of the controls so the Controller can complete checking. You should arrive back at the Assembly Area at least 30 minutes before the first start time.
  3. Give the control descriptions and notices to the Organiser (also any master control cards).
  4. Install the Start Triangle
  5. Be ready to replace stolen or missing controls and flags during the event.
  6. After the last start time, the Start may be cleared up.
  7. After the course closing time or when the last competitor finishes, and only with the Controller’s permission, the control stakes, flags, tape and on-course water should be collected. These are the Planner’s responsibility but the Controller will probably help with this and there may be other volunteers - the more the better. Cut up map sections with clusters of controls should be pre-prepared for control collection.

After the Event

After having made sure that you have not mislaid any, return the control stakes, flags, tape and water bottles.

As you may have established a relationship with the landowner, please do thank them for the use of their property. If they have been really helpful, talk to someone on the Committee about how we may be able to show our appreciation.

Please give any feedback to the Committee.

ROUTE GADGET. Look at where people went. Did they use the route choices you planned for them?


1.0-1.5 km length, approx 5-10 controls (more OK), most competitors finish in 20-50 minutes. Maps must have fences. Control descriptions must be written in full in English.

White courses are for beginning orienteers, particularly of school age; many adult beginners would also select this course for their first attempt. Controls must be on easy features on linear black, blue or green handrails and also at every decision point (track junction, fence corner, change in feature type such as stream to track). Brown (topographic) handrails are generally considered unsuitable for white courses. No route choice is offered and no compass use is necessary.

Controls should be relatively close together and have a collecting feature immediately before or after (and preferably alongside) the direction of travel. Doglegs are permitted. All control markers must be visible from the approach side and clearly lead off to the next control. Where the course has to deviate from the handrail feature (e.g. to cross through a forest block), the route must be taped all the way until a new handrail feature is reached.


1.5-2.5 km (Short) to 2.5-3.5 km (Long), approx 6-10 controls, time range 20-60 minutes. Maps must have fences. Control descriptions must be in English with pictorials available.

Yellow courses are for those who have some basic orienteering skills,, and should be suitable for a wide age range. A handrail route on linear features should always be available but it should not always be the fastest route (i.e. there is limited route choice). There should be scope for cutting corners. If used, compasses should be for rough direction use only. Controls should be either on or <50 m from distinctive and/or line features, but preferably not at turning points. Try to provide catching features nearby. As a general rule use hills and other elevated features and avoid depressed features such as pits. Choose an uncluttered area of the map with clearly shown features. Avoid complicated contour areas, steep terrain, thick vegetation and hazards. Control sites should be visible from the approach side by any reasonable route.

String [Not usually done now]

Approx 0.5 km in length. Must be totally failsafe. Use an enlarged, simplified map, or a picture map. Controls and control descriptions have picture codes.

String courses may be optionally provided for pre-school age children. A tape or string is placed around the course. Controls must be on unique features. As each control is reached the next one must be visible. Children mark a control card, which has picture codes, either with a coloured crayon hung at each control, or they punch the picture code card.


2.5-4.0 km (Short) to 4.0-6.0 km (Long), approx 6-15 controls, time range 40-90 minutes. Maps must have fences (club policy); only omit them if a fenced map is too easy (check with Controller). Provide both written English and pictorial control descriptions.

Orange courses are for orienteers with some experience or experienced orienteers. Route choices should include long handrail routes and shorter more technical routes. Controls can be off handrails but there should be clear attack points and/or collecting features within 100m of the control. The actual control sites may be fairly small point features and the control markers need not necessarily be visible from the attack point. Exit from the control site should not be the same as the entry (dog-legs are not permitted).

Navigation can require use of contours, rough compass bearings and some pace counting. Use of a chain of prominent features as "stepping stones" to complete a leg is encouraged.


2.0-9.0 km (Short-Medium-Long), approx 9-20 controls, time range 30-100 minutes, approx 9-20 controls. Maps must NOT show fences. Control descriptions must only be pictorial.

Red courses are for experienced competent orienteers. Varied route choice and leg length are technically difficult, and demand a full range of orienteering skills.

Navigation should be as difficult as possible with small contour and point features as preferred control sites with no obvious attack points or handrails. Control sites should be placed in areas rich in detail, and before, and not close to, a large catching feature. Route choice should be an important element in most legs. No doglegs are permitted. Note: it may be impossible to set red courses on some maps. Please consider climb and rough terrain, and try and minimise travel through it, for older competitors on the Short Red course.