Orientation of outdoor facilities

The orientation of outdoor playing areas is an important planning consideration.

The time of day (early morning or late afternoon) as well as the time of year (winter or summer) has a bearing on optimum orientation.

The aim however is to share between opposing participants the advantages and/or disadvantages of the sun's direction and other natural factors such as breezes. It is generally recommended that playing areas are orientated approximately in a north-south direction to minimise the effect of a setting sun on players. The best common orientation is 15° east of north.

However, with more sports being played under lights, this may be less of a concern.

Limits of good orientation where a uniform direction for all facilities can be arranged:

  • athletics, basketball, bowls, croquet, handball, lacrosse, netball, tennis ─ between 20° west of north and 35° east of north
  • football: soccer, five-a-side, Australian rules, Gaelic, rugby league, rugby union ─ between 20° west of north and 45° east of north
  • hockey, polo, polocrosse ─ between 45° west of north and 45° east of north
  • baseball, cricket, softball ─ between 45° west of north and 35° east of north

Prevailing winds also have to be taken into account. In athletics, the potential problems caused by strong winds are worse than the inconvenience caused by the setting sun. Athletes approaching the finish line should not have to contend with strong winds. Pole vaulters should not be exposed to crosswinds or strong opposing headwinds. The discus is best thrown into a headwind.

In outdoor diving pools, springboards and platforms should face south.

In shooting sports and archery, outdoor ranges should be constructed so that the sun is behind the shooter as much as possible.

Lawn bowling greens must be located away from tall buildings and trees that may cast shadows over the bowling surface, thereby affecting turf performance. This is not relevant for synthetic surfaces.

Cricket pitches must run approximately north/south to minimise the risk of batsmen or bowlers facing a low sun. The pitch axis must point in a direction between 55° and 325° on the compass.

Tennis courts must be oriented with play along an approximate north/south axis.

The diagram on the left illustrates the optimum orientation for Australia for various sporting activities. Local conditions may override these recommendations. 



The information in this guide is general in nature and cannot be relied upon as professional advice concerning the design of, or marking out for, sporting facilities and playing areas. No assurance is given as to the accuracy of any information contained in this guide and readers should not rely on its accuracy. Readers should obtain their own independent and professional advice in relation to their proposed sporting activity.