An article that was written for Street orienteering many years ago...still relevant...
The course setter tells you how many controls you need to complete the course. Choose your own route to visit this number of controls and then return to the finish. Your position in a scatter event is based on the finishing order on each course.
Find out before the start how many controls are required; you have enough to do at the start without searching your map for the tiny table that tells you how many controls to do. For the forgetful - many people write the number of controls on their card - or circle that number on the front of their card.
You need to find the shortest course with the minimum climb to do the required number of controls.
Look for a loop that allows you to get one set of controls on the way out and another on the way back. Going to a control well off to one side will force you to run out to it and then all the way back past controls you've already done. Probably better to get some other control
Get the right number of controls
Some people see that they have to do 16 controls...so they choose 4 to leave out.
Other people count up from 1 to make sure they have enough controls.
Be careful that you don't miss a control. If you use the 1st approach above - do the positive count as well. It would be disastrous (or very funny) to get to the finish, only to find that you've inadvertently left out 5 controls because you didn't see one control at the edge of the map.
OK....but which controls?
In general, the n controls that are closest to the start will be the ones to go for – but any of the following might change your choice of controls:
Obstacles; an obstacle such as a creek or freeway might prevent direct access to a control.
High hills or steep areas (i.e. areas where there are lots of contour lines or the contour lines are close together). Climbing 10m in height is equivalent to about 100m of running on flat ground.
Control positions; a group of 3-4 controls off to one side might produce a logical group of controls to run to. (Some course-setters set courses with clusters of 3-4 close controls with empty space between each cluster. If you travel to the cluster, you may as well do all the controls in that group).
Parkland; I like running in parks. Why run on concrete paths if you can run through the park on grass?
Mistakes; most orienteers make lots of these. You might simply miscount or forget to punch a control on the way past. You might not be able to find a control - either way, don’t be too concerned – push on with your course and plead for mercy at the finish (most organizers are pretty easy going with newcomers).
There is no time-limit – other than the course closure (in streetO this is 8:15pm)
When you get to a control, punch in the square of that number. e.g. if you arrive at control 13, punch in square 13. Each control has a unique punch pattern so we can confirm which controls have been visited.
As you approach the finish, punch the finish control in the bottom right hand corner of the control card and pass your card in. Everybody must pass their score card in – this is used to confirm that all runners/walkers have returned. If you don’t pass your card in, they may go looking for you.