Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club

TURF! What is it all about?

Find out about Turf from our zone maker for Scotland, Kingslayer! (This article appeared in the September 2020 issue of Capital-O.)

I know lots of you in ESOC are using Turf and hopefully more of you have heard about the Turf app. If not, download it and try it out today! I like to describe Turf as "modern orienteering" or "city orienteering" and it is quite a large sport in Sweden where I live (as you may have noticed on the map).

The objective of Turf is to gain points by visiting virtual zones on the digital map in real life, just as you in classic orienteering visit control points. But you can visit zones in any order, by any means and any time throughout a round, each of which is a month long.

We who make the zones try to place them:

  1. As equidistant as possible, and no closer than 250 metres from each other (as you walk or bike).
  2. Safely, i.e. not on roads or in rivers with strong currents.
  3. We try to build "good" loops for a walk or a workout, running or biking.
  4. We try to close "black holes" where there are a very long distances between two zones.
  5. We try to hit all places of interest in a town with a zone. In Sweden, we have something called "Turf tourism", where turfers pack the bike on the car and go to a town they have never visited and just turf. You get to see everything worth seeing and a bit more. You have had your fair share of Turf tourists in Edinburgh in the past, but not this year with Corona and all.
Turf Zones
Image: Turf Zones

Some of you may have noticed that you can make suggestions for new zones in the app. By all means use the function, but this does not trigger anything on my side, so I get no notification that you have made a suggestion. The suggestions are stored on my zone maker map and can be handy when I look at places with a long distance between existing zones or to discover a great spot I have missed! But generally, a much better way to propose new zones is to post your suggestions in the UK zone section of the Turf forum. Here you can attach drawings, argue your case and invite co-turfers for support. We specifically appreciate inputs on 3, 4 and 5 above.

Sometimes, you will visit a zone which is not OK. Maybe it’s placed dangerously (on a heavily trafficked road), inaccessible (behind locked fences), inappropriately (a nudist beach) or just very badly (in a giant puddle of mud). When you experience any of these you should report a zone issue. First, go to the Turf website and log on with your turfnick. Then scroll down and select “Report Issues” on the right. Make a zone issue and follow the instructions. Note: a few select zones you have to pay to visit are OK if they are at places of great interest.

Lastly, a few things about turf which are not obvious from using the app:

Zone value
Zone value

Zone value. A zone has a Take Point (TP - e.g. 185), which you get when you take over a zone from someone else, and Points Per Hour (PPH – e.g. +1), which are bonus points you get per hour for as long as you hold the zone, until another turfer takes it or the round ends. These values are recalculated shortly before a new round is beginning, and if many (and many different) turfers have taken a zone, the TP will decrease (e.g. 185 to 170), but PPH will increase (e.g. +1 to +2). See example right at Calton Hill. The opposite will happen if a zone with a higher TP than 185 suddenly gets less visitors during a round.

Takes. A Take is when you take over a zone from someone else (or a neutral yellow zone at new round start). It gives you the TP and you get to hold the PPH until you lose it.

Assists. An Assist is a take you make together with someone else. That someone else gets the take and gets to hold the zone and the PPH, but you get an assist, which counts as take and gives you the same TP, but you get no PPH. Covid-restrictions permitting of course, you can be as many people that fit inside a zone (try it, it will look incredibly fun to tugglers (non-turfing people)!) The person in the zone whose app takeover bar gets filled first will get the take, and everyone else gets an assist. Assist was introduced a few years ago to allow turfers to turf together.


Revisits. If no one has taken a zone you hold after 23 hours, you can make a revisit. Revisit only gives half TP and does NOT count as take. This is important when you want to start taking the different medals. Most medals are based on takes (or assists) but NOT revisits.

"Normal turf" vs "Events". Normal turf is played in rounds that run from the first Sunday of a month to first Sunday of the following month. You get points by visiting the zones throughout that period. The value of the zones can differ from round to round, but the placement is always the same. So after a few rounds in the same town, you no longer need to navigate to find the zones; you know where they are. You still need to keep an eye on the map to make sure you don’t block or get blocked by other players. There is a world top list, a country top list and a regional top list (in your case, Scotland) and you will appear on all three. You will get in-app medals for winning these top lists. In addition to the top lists, all players are also sorted into a league system, where you can advance to the next level if you win your group or get demoted to the next lower level if you don’t play better than at least two of the other 9 mates.

Events are more like classic orienteering competitions. An event is a Turf competition which is limited in time, e.g. 1 hour, and space, i.e. a specific area in a forest you decide or perhaps the slope up to Arthur’s Seat! The person or organisation who is hosting the event creates the zones for the event wherever they like. The zones will only be available during the event and any normal turf zones will disappear within the event area while the event is ongoing. All participants have equal takeover time (30 seconds) and block time (3 minutes), so no participant has an advantage over any other participant, and as no one knows where the zones are until the event has started everyone has to navigate just as in classic orienteering. The zones values in events are fixed to 10 TP and 60 PPH. There will be a specific result list in the app while the event is ongoing and afterwards you can find the full result list on the Events page of the Turf website. Clubs and associations normally host competitions like this and a competition can consist of different "heats", e.g. "Foot" and "Bike", which are separate events which can take at on different places (e.g. foot heat at the Castle Hill, bike heat at Arthur’s Seat). It is free to create events and very easy. More info on the link above.

Warded. When you log on to www.turfgame.com, there is a link to a site called Warded. This holds YOUR personal Turf data and statistics. I suggest you have a look when you have played for some time and gathered a bit of data. We who have been turfing for a while are quite a bit of metrics nerds ;-)

Chat. There is a regional, country and world chat in the app. You can use these to hail other turfers. To make sure they get notified properly, you should start your message with their turf nick, e.g. "ESOCWalter: hey dude, aren’t your dogs tired of turfing now ;-)". The regional and country chat is set to the region and country where you took the latest zone. You can’t write to folks in the regional or country chat who haven’t taken their last zone in the same region/country as you; well you can, but they won’t be able to see it. World chat is the only one to reach folks like that (and unfortunately it’s frequently filled with garbage).​

Confused? No doubt. Turf is difficult to explain but very easy to practise, so get out there and start the taking over Edinburgh, zone by zone. Remember all turfers’ motto: "Only one more..."!

- Kingslayer

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