Course Setters

Why set orienteering courses?

Course setting or planning is enjoyable. You decide how to test orienteers' skills and have a pleasant wander around an orienteering map. 

Course setting is also a responsibility. You need to ensure the courses comply with ONSW and OA rules, are safe, and the controls are in the right place. Importantly, your courses should enthuse people to compete in other orienteering events.

Course setting will improve your orienteering. You have to decide on whether the map is correct around your control sites and to consider what route choices will be challenging.

How to set your first course?

Clubs appoint setters for their events. If you are interested in setting an event please contact the event coordinator for your club. Ask your club to provide someone to mentor and/or control your first few events as a course setter – there is a surprising amount to learn.

Material on how to set courses

The ONSW Event Rules (scroll down to section 4) set out the parameters for various events. If you are setting a NSW Championship or National event then the Orienteering Australia competition rules apply.  For local club level events, it is best to check with your club on what is required.

Where required, control description symbols used in Australia should be in accordance with the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) Control Descriptions. Planners and Controllers for Major events should check the latest version of the International Control Description Symbols from the IOF website.

Setting MTBO courses (Swedish document)

Technology to set courses

(1) Purple Pen is a free, simple, intuitive program that requires only a pdf of the map to let you set courses. It only works on Windows (sorry, Apple users). Click here for a YouTube video tutorial by OQ's Gordon Bossley. 

(2) OCAD is a technical drawing software package that lets you draw maps and set courses. It requires a much greater level of computer know-how than Purple Pen.

Measuring course lengths

(1) For score or scatter courses, which are our most popular summer format, there are a number of apps or websites to assist. Mapmyrun, for example, is free to join. Try to work out your optimal route for each course, then 'Create' a route and draw the line of the route. The program will tell you how far the course is. Be mindful to set shorter courses in steeper terrain.

(2) For line courses, both Purple Pen (free) and OCAD (versions 8 and below are free) calculate the 'straight line' route as you add controls to each course. Remind newcomers that the realistic or actual length can be 20-40% longer than the 'straight line' route which is usually the one stated on the event web page. 

Further guidance

The International Orienteering Federation has released June 2020 updates on its Guidelines on Course Setting (please note these are designed for setting World Championships and some parts don't apply to events in Australia):

Degrees of Difficulty (Hard, Moderate, Easy, Very Easy) and Course Format (Sprint, Middle, Long)

Guidance on setting easy courses

Examples of excellent middle and long distance courses

Historical information on course lengths for State League courses

David May article on setting Sprint courses

Garingal club guide to setting club line courses

OV guide to summer series score or scatter course setting

Glenn Horrocks AO mag article on setting urban score courses

Further information on course setting can be obtained from the technical officer for your club, accredited Controllers or the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..