Start location

This is shown in the first line of descriptions, using the description as if it were a control feature:


This tells us that the M21E class is competing on Course 1, which is 13 km with 585 m climb. There is a taped route 80 metres in length from the map distribution point to the start of the course, which is marked with a control flag on the northern side of south-western boulder 1.5 metres high.

If this information is on the control description, there is no need for the start official to advise competitors “to follow the taped route for 80 metres”, as competitors will look at the control description, and being fully aware of the rules, will know this immediately!


Prominent features/Special items


NB – ISOM refers to the “International Standard for Orienteering Maps” and is applicable to both the forest and sprint mapping standard.

For Group A events, organisers should consider including pictures of the prominent features in the race instructions if the features are unusual. Where there is only one prominent feature, your control description software might allow the feature to be described textually, for example:


If this option is used, race instructions should note this, e.g. “Control descriptions on some courses use the Prominent features/Special items symbols. When used, a textual description of the feature is included in the control description”.


Partially marked routes and marked routes between controls

Examples of where symbol 15.1 (see description below) might be used are:

  • A marked route for competitors to run through an assembly area as a spectator leg but must start navigating from the end of the mark route (of course you could simply use a dummy spectator control, but occasionally competitors forget to punch the dummy control and are thus disqualified, which is not what we want to see).
  • A marked route for junior competitors to run through an area with no linear features to a point on a linear feature where they must start navigating independently.

15.2 is generally used on junior courses as a transition leg to get competitors through areas of terrain without linear features.



Mandatory crossing points/routes between two controls


The crossing point symbol is often used on maps to indicate routes through otherwise impenetrable bush. An example of where it might be used is where there is a very narrow passage through the bush - this is difficult to show cartographically and introduces an element of luck to the competition, so course planners might mark optional crossing points on the map (i.e. competitors can take advantage of them if they can navigate successfully to that crossing point). The crossing points must also be shown on the ground (e.g. marked with flagging tape), and the style of marking described in the race instructions (e.g. “Optional crossing points are marked on the ground with yellow and blue flagging tape”). 

Where the course planner requires that competitors must use a crossing point, for example, a style over a fence if required by the landowner, then the fact that it is mandatory to use the crossing point must be shown on the control description using control description symbol 15.3:


If there is only a single crossing point, then the course leg should be shown as leading from the control to the crossing point, and then from the crossing point to the following control (to quote the mapping standard “the (course) line should be drawn via mandatory crossing points”. Where there are multiple crossing points (e.g. multiple styles over a fence where many courses cross the fence in different locations), then it might be reasonable to show a normal course line, however the mandatory nature of the crossing should be shown on the control description and the requirement stated in the race instructions.

An example of where symbol 15.54 might be used is where competitors must cross a paddock that has been sown with crops, but a pathway exists whereby they can follow the path without running across the cropped section of the paddock. Once again, the course line should lead to and from the crossing symbol, which should be elongated to show the full extent of the passage, and the mandatory passage symbol included in the control description:



Map exchange


Examples of where 15.5 might be used are:

  • Where a competition is being conducted on a small map that would be virtually unreadable if a course of the required length were to be drawn on the map.
  • A sprint competition on two adjacent maps that don’t fit conveniently on a single A4 sheet.


The route from the last control to the finish

Following the final description, the nature of the route from the last control to the finish is indicated by one of the following:


If the default setting for your control description software is 16.3, and your finish setup is either 16.1 or 16.2, then you will have to change the control description to reflect the actual setup used.


Column H – Other information


The final column on the control description provides safety information to competitors. Earlier versions of the guidelines included a “Radio or TV Control” symbol:


Note that this is no longer used.


And finally

IOF and OA rules Appendix 2: Principles for course planning

3.5.6. The control description

The position of the control with respect to the feature shown on the map is defined by the control description.

The exact control feature on the ground, and the point marked on the map, must be indisputable. Controls which cannot be clearly and easily defined by the IOF control symbols are usually not suitable and should be avoided.