Course Setter's Checklist

Contributed by Jason Tong

Here is a detailed checklist for designing and setting courses. Some corners can be cut particularly for local events, but ideally each step should be followed.

Rough Planning

  • Check with the park authorities for any restrictions on parking, facilities use, construction, out-of-bounds areas, scheduling conflicts (i.e. other activities being held in the same area as the planned course) environmentally sensitive areas or other limits.
  • Pick a registration location with parking, shelter and other facilities.
  • Cut lengths of string corresponding to the average length for each course and use them to measure out approximate loops starting and finishing near registration.
  • Sketch out potential course loops with interesting areas.
  • Select some specific control sites around the course. Select more than one site for each leg if you aren't familiar with the accuracy of the map.

Field Checking

  • Go out and walk the map around the rough loops, checking it for accuracy and comparing the sites you selected. Make extensive notes. You don't want to have to revisit any sites.
  • If an area is a complete washout, the rough loop may have to be changed. Try to do this in the field and check out the new locations.
  • Try to field check close the actual competition date if vegetation or ground water levels are likely to change.

Final Planning

  • Based on your rough survey, make your final courses. Go back for another look if you have to.
  • Make a master map with all controls and water stops. Number the controls, on the map. Avoid using easily confused control numbers (323 vs. 332) for nearby controls.
  • Check that there are control flags in the kit for all the numbers used. Change the numbers or get more flags as needed.
  • Make extra master maps if more than one person will hang streamers and flags, or if the master will be cut up to assist control pickup after the event and you want to keep one for your records.
  • Make sure all the master maps are the same!

Streamer the control locations in the field. The control locations should be streamered in advance for several reasons:

  • The control site should be surveyed in advance to determine exactly where and how the flag will be hung. Sometimes there might not be a branch to hang the control and something must be improvised.
  • The exact location on the side of the feature will have to be determined on the site before it can be printed in the clue sheet.
  • The controls should be hung at the last minute to prevent mischief or accident. Having the locations pre-marked makes the hanging go faster.
  • The streamer serves as a backup in case the flag is stolen.

For each streamer:

  • Hang the streamer so that control feature is visible to an approaching runner before or simultaneously with the flag. The competitors should navigate by finding the feature, not the flag. For advanced courses this might mean hanging the flag behind a boulder or at the bottom of a pit. Even for beginner's controls like a trail junction try to put the control on the far side of the junction, so both are seen simultaneously.
  • Tie the streamer at the exact spot the flag is to be tied. The streamer should not be visible to an approaching runner before the control can be seen.
  • Write the control number and event date on the streamer. This allows the streamer to serve as a check to the competitor if the control is stolen and the date discourages anyone from removing the streamer before the event and indicates that it's OK to remove if it is found after the event.
  • Check off the control in the master map. (It's easy to skip one by accident)
  • Note the specific location (i.e. north side of bolder) for later inclusion in the clue sheet.
  • Take your time. Locate a control from more than one attack point if you are not sure. Take one last opportunity to check that the map is correct and fair in the control area. You do not want to have to come back until the control is actually hung and by then, it is too late to change anything.

Make the clue sheets for each course, using the master map.

  • WY have written clues in addition to the clue symbols. Use the official names of features and be consistent. Write the descriptive terms, separated by dashes, in the same order the symbols appear to help beginners learn the symbols. Try to use as many symbols a possible to expose beginners to as many as possible, but-
  • Do not use superfluous symbols. Each symbol should assist the competitor. If the flag placement affects the direction of approach, the clue sheet must be specific or the control becomes a bingo.

Make the master punch cards

  • Punch each control box and tie the punch to the appropriate flag. Try to avoid using similar looking punch patterns for adjacent controls. This is much harder than it sounds. Patterns can look alike when one is double punched or not completely punched.

Double check that the control numbers on the clue sheets match the master map.

  • Watch out for transpositions of numbers. Ideally this should be done by someone other than the course setter.

Hang the controls

  • Hang the flag exactly where the streamer is tied. The punch can be tied to the flag, but preferably on a separate branch to avoid pulling down the flag. Avoid tying the punch so that it hangs inside the flag.
  • Tie punches on White and Yellow courses low enough so that smaller, younger runners can reach them.
  • If the flag is hung in an inaccessible spot for visibility reasons (at the bottom of a pit), the punch can be put at a more accessible spot, as long as it is immediately and easily spotted. The competitor should never lose time looking for the punch.
  • A different person from the one who hung the streamer should hang the control. This provides a final check of the location. If the same person hangs the flag, try to approach the control from a different direction.
  • Place water away from the control and hidden from view of approaching runners. This discourages using the water to locate the control and from runners loitering directly at the control.
  • Check the controls off on a clue sheet as you hang them to make sure you didn't miss any controls.

(I once relied on the fact that all the controls were used up to insure that they were all hung until one day when I dropped a control in the woods while hanging the others and happened to forget to go to that exact same control location.)

Control pick-up

  • After the event, use the master map to organize control pickup. Divide up the controls among the pickup crew and cut the map into sections, giving each the section with the controls to be collected.