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If you're a Junior Newcomer (aged 18 and under) check out our dedicated Juniors Page,  and its Other Useful Stuff section - it's packed full of info that kids (and their parents!) might like to know when they're starting out...

Starting Orienteering

If you are new to orienteering a great place to start is at one of our Saturday afternoon orienteering sessions.  These are aimed at introducing new people to the sport as well as helping people improve.  They have courses suitable for everyone, are often based around a cafe on one of our areas.  There are volunteers available to help you and at most of our Saturday events there will also be an opportunity to do an introductory session which will explain what an orienteering course is, the symbols etc. on the map and a few easy techniques to help you.

Details of all our up-coming events are here

But don't think that means the orienteering courses available at any of our other events wouldn't be suitable.  Almost all of our events listed will have a course that is the right difficulty for you and vary in distance from 1 - 10+ kms.

Your First Orienteering Event

If you decide to come to one of our events for your first taste of orienteering, all of our volunteers are able to offer advice. Speak to a member of the registration team and explain your situation and they will be able to suggest a course for you to have a go at. Some of our events are aimed specifically at those new to the sports and are usually run by a club coach.

At orienteering events there are a number of courses, classified by colour and detailed below, which gradually increase in technical and physical difficulty.

A Newcomer's Guide

Have a look at this video on Starting Orienteering, presented by Graham Gristwood. More videos from the GB Elite Team can be seen below...

  White 0.5-1.5km  This is usually the shortest course on offer and is aimed at young children who are moving off the string course (see below) and into the terrain. The courses are very simple and stick to main paths.
  Yellow 1-3km  These courses are slightly more technical than the white courses with controls slightly off the paths, but on easy to find line features such as streams or walls.
  Orange 3-5km The orange courses are the usual start point for adult beginners at orienteering. Here you will be presented with basic route choice options and will use simple compass skills.
  Light Green 3.5-4.5km Here the technical and physical difficulty is increased again. The courses are slightly longer than orange and utilise point (e.g. boulders) and contour features.
  Green 4-5km These courses are at the most technical level (TD5) and are aimed at those wanting a relatively short run with a technical challenge.
  Blue 5-7km The courses and those below are all still at the highest technical difficulty, but are longer and more physically challenging than green courses
  Brown 7km+ The brown courses are technically difficult and fairly long.
  Black 10km+ These are the longest courses at standard orienteering events with typically distances of over 10km

The above courses are for standard orienteering events, such as those in forests or on moorland. There are other types of events such as:

  • Night - typically shorter distances than day events, a headtorch is a must (or a good torch for your first event)
  • Relay - as the name suggests, a group of orienteers in teams of 3-8 competeing in a team.
  • Sprint - these are fast-paced events that are only a few kilometres in length but have many controls often close together
  • Urban - as the name suggestions these events are held in town and city centres or housing estates. There has been a big increase in the number of these events in the last few years. Urban races are held annulally in large cities such as London, Edinburgh and of course Sheffield.
  • Mountain bike - longer (both in distance and time) than typical oienteering events and less frequent, but still good fun.
  • Score - the aim for these events is to visit as many controls as you can, usually in a time limit. The key is that you can visit them in any order, unlike traditional orienteering where you have to stick to a set course.
  • A combination of the above - urban sprints are quite common, as are night scores (in the winter). The UK's first sprint relay was recently hosted by SYO in Sheffield.

'Think Fast, Run Hard, Go Orienteering' - Coaching Videos

These videos, presented by athletes from the GB Elite Orienteering Team, cover a range of techniques. In just 5 mins, each aims to help you improve one key aspect of your orienteering:

Setting the Map

Charlotte Ward

Using the Compass

Hector Haines

Attack Points

Megan Carter-Davies

Aiming Off

Charlotte Watson

Large Contour Features

Chris Smithard

Route Choice

Alice Leake

Intricate Contours

Kris Jones


Ralph Street

Further Information

The Official British Orienteering guide for newcomers here.

Mole Valley Orienteers - Jargon buster If you're new, or just started, and baffled by all the jargon (there's lots of it!) this Jargon Buster should help you out.

Yorkshire & Humberside Orienteering Association - What is Orienteering? - Regional competitions

Last modified on Thursday, 28 February 2019 22:37

Join SYO

There are lots of benefits of joining South Yorkshire Orienteers. As a member, you will...

  • get regular updates about forthcoming events
  • get a free entry voucher to new adult members for use at any SYO event
  • monthly newsletters
  • qualify for discounts on entry fees at SYO events and events across the country
  • be able to represent the club at relay races and club competitions
  • be part of one of the most successful and active clubs in the country
  • be able to join our weekly club night training sessions (£3 per session)
  • qualify for the free t'shirt participation scheme for attending club events
  • and of course get to come along to our great social events and get to know other members (usually combined with some orienteering).

By joining the club you will also become a member of British Orienteering, which offers you even more benefits. As a British Orienteering member, you will receive:

  • the option to sign up for a range of e-newsletters
  • eligibility to compete in the British Championships, JK and other major events
  • opportunity to qualify to represent your country at international competitions
  • the option to compete in a Rankings (over 16s) scheme.
  • access to a 'Navigational Challenge' and 'Racing Challenge' Incentive Scheme
  • public liability insurance when participating in events and activities registered with British Orienteering
  • papers and vote at the British Orienteering AGM
  • discounts from national companies through the member discounts scheme
  • access to a members only section of the website.

We have two basic membership grades:

Senior aged 21 or older on 31 Dec of the membership year £26.00
Junior aged 20 or younger on 31 Dec of the membership year £8.00

The membership for any new members joining now will be valid until 31/12/21.

This annual membership fee also includes membership of the Yorkshire & Humberside Orienteering Association (YHOA) and British Orienteering. Membership and Renewals are administered by British Orienteering on our behalf.

Join now this takes you to the British Orienteering website to complete the online form. The club and association will be be pre-filled using this link, you just need to add your personal details.

If you would prefer to pay by cheque, then download a membership form here: 

You can also join over the phone, by contacting British Orienteering on 01629 734042.

Any questions?

Contact our membership secretary (email link to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for more information.

Help us

As a club, we rely on lots of volunteers to help put on a wide range of races and events throughout the year. We encourage our members to help out with at least a couple of events each year – it's a great way to meet the club, and put something back into the sport. Your help will only be needed for a few hours each year, and helps us to keep running lots of races and events.

For more information about volunteering and helping the club, and to offer your help at future events, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.