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Course Planning for Moderate and Hard Courses
The orienteering course comprises the start, the legs, control sites and the finish. Often the temptation is to look at the more complex or detailed areas of the map and think that they contain good control sites, and then just join these areas with the legs, or to look for the tricky control sites when doing the field check.
However the legs are the most important part of the course and the quality of the course is largely determined by the quality of the legs. Hence plan the legs before considering the control site at the end of it, just circle a general area in which you want each leg to end. The following points are relevant to planning good legs

  • Emphasis is to have several legs with route choice, eg by presenting some obstacles on the leg such as climb, rocky areas, greener areas, complex areas, or simply by length which opens up larger areas of the map to the competitor thus creating more potential route choices

  • Good legs offer competitors interesting map reading problems, allow for alternative individual routes, and hence tend to separate competitors

  • Try to plan the main legs where the map is rich in detail, changeable in character and demanding in map reading ability

  • Different types of legs should be offered on a course so that different skills are tested, eg range from intense map reading to sections in which rough orienteering is possible

  • Variations with respect to length and difficulty to force competitors to use a range of techniques eg a couple of short intense legs before a longer leg with major route choice decisions

  • The course should give changes in directions for consecutive legs as this forces competitors to reorient themselves frequently

  • Preferable for a course to have a few very good legs joined by short links to enhance the better legs rather than a larger number of even but lesser quality legs

  • Good legs with several route choice possibilities tend to split up the field thus reducing “following”

  • Use short linking legs to eliminate dog legs

  • Don’t ruin a good leg by having a ‘bingo’ control at the end of it.

  • Thoughtful planning of legs with route choice can make good courses on some of our more average maps

However as with looking for that tricky control site, don’t fall into a similar trap by setting a leg which crosses the steepest, thickest and most complex parts of the map in order to place obstacles on your course.

For examples of “Good Legs” refer to a series of articles which have appeared in the last few issues of the “Australian Orienteer” (1999). Also look back at some of your recent orienteering courses for examples of legs which may have presented you with route choice problems and think about which ones gave you with the most “enjoyable” challenge. Some may have presented a challenge but was it enjoyable (eg just steep and green).
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