The Orienteering Course

At most orienteering events, several orienteering courses are available.  A course is printed on the orienteering map (for features of the orienteering map refer to the Orienteering Map page).  The common features of a course are

  • Example Orienteering Coursewhere you start, usually identified by a triangle
  • a series of control sites that you will visit, these are marked by a circle, numbered in order and marked by connecting lines
  • description of what to look for at each control site, the feature is in the centre of the circle and will be marked on the ground by an orange and white flag
  • on each control flag will be a punch either manual or electronic, these are used to prove you have visited each control site in order
  • a finish location marked by a double circle on the map


The control descriptions list the number of the control, the code on the control flag, a description of the feature, and any additional information about where the flag is lcoated.  The descriptions are in English or for harder navigational courses, in International Orienteering Control Description symbols (used world wide).  The control descriptions also list the length of the course (measured in a straight line) and the number of metres of climb.

English and International control descriptions for a course


 Explanation of the symbols is available at events

 Navigational Skill

Orienteering Courses are classified into 4 levels of navigational difficulty

1. VERY EASY - 1.5 - 2.5  km, 20- 40 mins to complete

Suitable for younger children (8-10 year olds), beginners and family groups.  Course follow tracks and other major features.  Compass not necessary

2. EASY - 2.5 - 3 km, 25 - 50 mins to complete

Requires basic map reading skills, recreational entry to orienteering.  For walkers, joggers, groups, bush walkers.  Compass optional.

3. MODERATE - 2.5 - 5 km, 25 - 80 mins to complete

Knowledge of map reading and navigation. Some cross country navigation on bush maps.  Compass recommended on bush maps.

4. HARD - 3 - 15 km - 40 - 140 mins

Several course lengths provided suitable for different age groups.  For experienced orienteers with good map reading and navigational skills, requires compass on bush maps.  Can be physically demanding.  Highly competitive at the elite level.