The control descriptions is a description of the nature and exact location of the controls on the ground.

Furthermore, it indicates the placement of the control flag in relation to the feature where the control is located and allows the orienteer, through the code, to verify that it is the correct control.

The symbols of the control descriptions should not be mistaken with the symbols of the map, although there is a correspondence between many of the symbols used on both symbols set.

The control decriptions must always be present with the course on a Foot Orienteering map. However, at most official events, an additional control descriptions sheet is also distributed. To transport it, a control description holder is normally used that fits on the athlete’s forearm.

In Trail Orienteering events, the control descriptions are also used, but with some small changes in its structure to adapt to the characteristics of these discipline.

In MTB Orienteering, the control descriptions are not used.

The oficial IOF document that describes the control descriptions structure and symbols is the International Specification for Control Descriptions.

The following topics describe the Foot Orienteering control descriptions.

Example of a control description for a full course

Control description of the event “Low lands trophy”
Course for the classes: W60 and M70
Course “E” / Length: 6,8 km / Heigth climb: 120m
Start flag:  Junction of a road with a wall
1 (103)  Re-entrant
2 (104)  Northwestern rock, height 2m, West side
3 (106)  Between two thickets
4 (120)  Middle depression, Southeastern part
5 (126)  Southern ruin, northwest side
Mandatory crossing point
6 (132)  Stone wall, in ruins, southeast corner (outside)
7 (145)  Spur, north west foot
8 (129)  Upper cliff, 3m high, at the foot
9 (112)  Path crossing
150m from last control to Finish. Follow taped route.

Control descriptions format

The control descriptions of a Foot Orienteering course, contains the following information:

  • Header with information about classes, distance and climb of the course;
  • Location of the start flag;
  • Description of each control, which may include special information about possible taped routes, mandatory crossings, etc.;
  • Nature of the route from the last control to finish.

The squares on the control description must have sides between 5 and 7 mm.


  • Name of the event;
  • Classes;
  • Course identification; Course distance in kilometers; Climb in meters.

Start flag location

Right below the header, using the same symbols of the controls.

Description of each control

The descriptions of each control are in the order in which they should be visited on the ground, and may include special information such as the length and nature of possible taped routes along the course. A thicker horizontal line must be used every four descriptions, and also before and after each line of special information.

Control description columns

AControl number
BControl code
CWhich of any similar feature
DControl feature (Landforms; Rock and boulders; Water and marsh; Vegetation; Man-made features; Special items)
FDimensions / Combinations / Bend
GLocation of the control flag
HOther information

Control description symbols

Control description categories: Column C | Column D (Landforms; Rock and boulders; Water and marsh; Vegetation; Man-made features; Special items) | Column E | Column F | Column G | Column H | Special instructions

Trail orienteering control descriptions

The precise location of the control on the ground must be correctly defined by the center of the circle on the map and the information on the control description.

The control descriptions (columns C, D, E, F and G) are the same as for Foot Orienteering.

In column B, the number of flags of the station is indicated by letters (e.g. A-C for 3 control flags).

In column H, if necessary, it is possible to indicate the viewing direction of the control flags from the observation point of the control (an arrow indicates this direction).

The control descritpion must include the maximum time allowed for the course.