South East Lancashire Orienteering Club

  • Example map of Bolton area
  • Orange/white orienteering control flag
  • Thumb compass
  • Dibber
  • Example orienteering shoes
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Colour Coded Courses

Orienteering courses are graded according to their length and technical difficulty.  The courses provided will depend on the location of the event and the anticipated levels of skill and experience of the participants.  

CourseDifficultyLength (km)Description
WHITE very easy 1.0 - 1.5 especially for very young novices
YELLOW easy 1.5 - 2.5 suitable for novices
ORANGE medium 2.5 - 3.5 for adult novices and teenagers
RED medium 3.5 - 5.0 for adult novices and runners
LIGHT GREEN more technical 2.5 - 3.5 for those with some experience
GREEN difficult 3.5 - 5.0 for experienced orienteers
BLUE difficult 5.0 - 7.5 for experienced orienteers
BROWN difficult 7.5 - 10.0 for experienced orienteers
BLACK difficult 10.0 + for experienced orienteers

The colours shown in the table above relate to the length and navigational difficulty of the colour coded courses typically offered at events. A youngster would be expected to start on either the white or yellow course, whilst an adult novice would begin with either the yellow or orange course, depending on their confidence. The organiser may also put on other courses to better suit the participants needs. e.g. a long easy course.

A competitor’s progression can then be made either towards longer courses with the navigation remaining the same, or on to courses with more challenging navigation, up to the appropriate length for their fitness.

In orienteering you will hear the level of technical difficulty of a course described in terms of TD level. These correspond to the levels shown in the table above. Thus, TD1 is very easy, TD2 easy, TD3 medium, TD4 more technical and TD5 difficult.

White Courses (XS) are very easy with all controls on paths.  They are mainly used by 6-10 year olds and family groups.

Yellow Courses (XS-S) use simple linear features like paths, walls and streams.  They are mainly used by under 12’s and family groups.

Orange Courses (S-M) progress to basic use of the compass and route choice. They are ideal for novice adults or experienced youngsters. Long Orange courses are used mainly by novice adults wanting a longer run.


Light Green Courses (S) are ideal for improvers as the navigational difficulty begins to increase and uses simple contours and ‘point’ features.

Green Courses (S) are used mostly by experienced under 18’s and adults wanting a short but challenging course with a very hard navigational difficulty. 

Blue Courses (M) are a longer, more physically demanding course in comparison to the green. The distances are more varied between controls and the course attracts experienced orienteers.


Brown (L) and Black Courses (XL) are very physically demanding and have a very hard navigational difficulty. They are for experienced orienteers only.

©2017 South East Lancashire Orienteering Club