Definition of "course" in descriptions

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sako
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Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby sako » Thu Aug 01, 2019 1:45 pm

I'm writing a M&B description for an open space easement. Somewhere in the description I need to describe 5 segments (4 B&D and 1 curve), I start with:
the following five (5) courses and distances:....
The third party consultant believes the word " course" applies to both bearing and distance. Brown 4th edition , page 101 says: The surveyor refers to course as being a combination of a bearing and a distance, whereas the attorney and the courts often use the term course and distance, meaning "bearing and distance".
I have seen in numerous descriptions the term "course" used as bearing, following by "distance", specially before describing a number of B&D, for example in describing the general flow of a creek. I also have been using the seminar workbook by the late Paul Cuomo as my reference.
What's your take on this issue?

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Warren Smith
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby Warren Smith » Thu Aug 01, 2019 2:32 pm

Horses for courses - "courses and distances" suffices as a preamble for the following bearings and distances.

Of course, this is mere pedantry - up with which you need not put!

That is, strictly speaking, the consultant has a valid point. You can compromise and use the following five (5) courses:
Warren D. Smith, LS 4842
County Surveyor
Tuolumne County

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David Kendall
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby David Kendall » Thu Aug 01, 2019 6:36 pm

Course is synonymous with direction. What does he care?

I believe it’s in all of the dictionaries

I’ll venture that the discussion time is putting his invoice amount on an upward course.

Usually they ask for less ambiguity in the exhibits....

Legal descriptions are full of ridiculous style preferences, there’s no reason to nitpick unless it confuses the boundary

Makes no difference either way, ask the consultant why this is important, I cannot imagine the value other than mild entertainment

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sako
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby sako » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:34 pm

I have submitted my plat and description end of May, we received 3 set of review comments and it's still not done. I charge a set price for the plat & description, the consulting company charges the City by time. ( I guess)
This consulting company has numerous branches all over CA, working for most of Cities in Bay Area. I have had similar issues with them in 2 other cities. I finally wrote a complaint letter to one City explaining why I believe the nitpicking will hurt the property owners. I haven't heard anything from that City.
When I ask the consulting Surveyor in charge if the changes will make my description any better, he replies " it's the City guidelines" which I'm sure it's not true, since the city doesn't even know what's going on.
The review comments letter has the name of a civil engineer (not a licensed surveyor), I requested that the consultant who redmarks my work need to be licensed.

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mpallamary
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby mpallamary » Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:21 pm

Some thoughts from Curt Brown:

**************************************************

THE SURVEYOR AND THE LAW

Legal Elements of Property Surveys
are Similar in New Brunswick
and The United States

June 1964

At the last annual convention of the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers,* in a discussion with W. F. Roberts, Director of Surveys, Province of New Brunswick, Canada, a comment was made that United States books pertaining to the legal elements of property surveys were recommended reading for those preparing for the New Brunswick land surveyors examination. After reading a few New Brunswick cases, the reason became quite apparent. The laws of both New Brunswick and the United States stem from English common law, and both are identical in many ways. A few examples are given below.

Construed against grantor, except the sovereign -- A grant from the Crown to the subject shall be taken most beneficially for the King and against the party, whereas the grant of the subject is construed most strongly against the grantor. (Wilson v Codyre. 27 NBR 320)

Senior rights -- The true line must be determined by the terms of the earlier grant, regard being first had to the natural boundaries stated in the grant, and, in subordination thereto, to the specified courses and distances, giving preference to the one or the other according to circumstances. (Brevier v Govang, 4 All. 144)

Identification by reference -- Where lands are described by a reference, either expressly or by implication, to a plan, the plan is considered as incorporated with the deed, and the contents and boundaries of the land conveyed, as defined by the plan, are to be taken as part of the description, just as though an extended description to that effect was in words contained in the body of the deed itself. (Grassett v Carter, 10 SCR 105)

Control Monuments- - It is clearly established that in questions of boundary fixed and ascertained objects or monuments or boundary control courses and distances. (Whelply v Lyons 2 Kerr 276)

Control of natural and artificial monuments -- In attempting to ascertain the intentions of parties to a deed, artificial monuments are regarded by the law as evidence of the intentions of the parties, second only in controlling force to that of natural monuments. (Shute v Adney (No. 2) 39 NBR 93)

Control of course and distance -- Where no monuments are called for by the deed, then the courses and distances must prevail. It is a well established principle that extrinsic evidence of monuments found upon the ground, but not referred to in a deed, is not admissible to control the deed. (Landry v Landry, 48 NBR 47, and Montreal Trust v Corey, 18 MPR 427)

Control of artificial stakes on the bank of a river -- If a boundary is described as running to a monument standing on the bank, and thence running by the river or along the river, it does not restrict the grant to the bank of the stream; for the monument in such a case is only referred to as giving the direction of the line to the river, and not as restricting the boundary on the river. (Robinson v White, 42 Main 218)

All of these are, of course, the common law of most States. Those reading United States books on the legal elements of boundary location law will get some ideas on what may happen in situations not yet tried in New Brunswick.

* See SURVEYING AND MAPPING, December 1963, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, p. 638.

- CURTIS M. BROWN

********************************************************************************
"The technician surveyor, blindly following a metes description of record without recourse to other matters equally as relevant to boundary as the courses and distances given therein, is as reprehensible as a surveyor surveying “as in possession” without recourse to the written record. Neither course of action will necessarily lead to a boundary location in accordance with the law."

"The only approach to be taken by a land surveyor in establishing on the ground the intent of written description is the correlation of the pattern of existing physical evidence taken collectively and harmonized with the theoretical and legal deed descriptions of all parties to that bound."

*****************************************************************************************

THE SURVEYOR AND THE LAW

Texas Law

March 1961

While at the recent Texas Surveyors Association annual meeting and the ACSM Regional Conference, several impressions of Texas law were gained.
In early Texas law (Stafford v King, year 1867, 30 Tex 257) the Hon. George W. Smith wrote, “. . . course and distance are regarded as the most unreliable and generally distance more than course, for the reason that chain-carriers may miscount and report distances inaccurately, by mistake or design. At any rate, they are more liable to err than the compass.” And such is the Texas law today. In instructions to the jury the judge states, in suitable court language, “If you are to choose between bearing and distance, bearing is to be considered more certain.”
Other than in Texas everyone has parroted the court ruling “distance is more certain than direction.” But is it?
*************************************************************************************************

"Id. - Monuments Control Courses and Distances. - The monuments and natural objects referred to in such survey, so far as they can be located, are controlling, and usually prevail over courses and distances."

************************************************************************************

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Proud7191
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby Proud7191 » Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:24 pm

WTH! Is the intent clear? Exhibit map is probably attached too that makes it all very clear ! What a waste of everyone’s time! My 2 cents? Jp

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sako
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby sako » Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:31 pm

Proud7191 wrote:WTH! Is the intent clear? Exhibit map is probably attached too that makes it all very clear ! What a waste of everyone’s time! My 2 cents? Jp

If I send you the description and plat and consultant's comments, you will laugh your ass off, but at the same time explode to see how they milk the time and material cost out of the City.

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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby DWoolley » Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:10 am

sako wrote:...I start with:
the following five (5) courses and distances:....

What's your take on this issue?


There will always exist the push-pull in the review process. After nearly 30 years of reviewing professional work product I believe the challenges have increased over the last decade - largely due to incompetency in land surveying.

The most incompetent private surveyors choose one of two paths. The first path, the most common path, is to comply with anything suggested, even blatant mistakes suggest by incompetent reviewers. The second, usually chosen by the more ignorant, is to fight tooth and nail for their incorrect solution. The common refrain for the second path is usually an ego driven "I have done it this way for [insert number here] years and never had a problem". The first path only serves to embolden incompetence within an agency.

In my past experience, the agency staff had superior knowledge and expertise. I attribute this agency expertise to mentoring i.e. the seasoned county/city/agency person had worked closely with many licensed professionals, through many complicated situations, over the course of many years. For example, there were many years I reviewed more parcel maps, final maps and/or records of survey than most professionals create in an entire career. This translates to a ratio of experience on the scale of more than 10:1 and an exposure to many different methods of practice. Again, in my experience, the mentoring began with a question and the solution was provided on both sides of the counter. There was always something to be learned.

Good work product was the end goal of all competent people. In my experience, we have lost much of this cooperative mentoring along the way. Most land surveyors are not formally educated and rely on mentoring and apprenticeship. Arguably, today there is very limited mentoring and apprenticeship - hence, the incompetence. Large shops serve the billable hours model and some small shops churn projects with unrealistically low cost estimates. When the discussion centers around the budget, rather than the procedures, the work product is secondary, likely meaningless, to the professional. Land surveying today is largely a form of grifting.

In my formative years, learning the review process of professional work product, a snarky comment, poor grammar, sentence structure, informal communication or a failure to be able to cite an authority would not have been tolerated. Certainly, the private professional would have never seen any unprofessional review comments. Unfortunately, today I see incompetence on both sides of the counter. It is especially disturbing to see the agency model of experience collapse.

Rather than lament the not so good "good ol' days" I offer the competent professional does not mind being questioned or certainly, questioning the reviewer. The worse case scenario is to capitulate - this only perpetuates and emboldens the incompetence. I am likely to step in front of a train next time I hear a map checker say "ah, we always ask for [X] and you're the first person to question it?". Translates to licensed professionals not caring two bits about correct and simply, processing their widgets and not taking the agency to task. Especially galling when the requested action is actually illegal or negligent. It occasionally comes up in a lawsuit. When asked the defendant states "I did it that way because the county told me to". Every licensed professional has a duty to be competent in the contracted assignment. Equally, a duty to question anything that is incorrect.

Sako, in the instant case, I ask you:

1. Why would you use the language "...the following five (5) courses and distances..."?

As I see it, there is no point or meaning to the chosen phrase. Would it matter if there were 5, 10, or 20 courses [and distances]? Rhetorical question. Suppose the description said 5 course [and distances] and there were actually 6 courses? Nevermind the secondary issue as to whether or not it is technically correct. It appears to be meaningless language/words that serves no purpose - other than violating the primary rule in writing descriptions i.e. clear, concise and without ambiguity. Wouldn't "...described as follows:" suffice? First ask, why add words to a description with no specific meaning or purpose? Probably not ideal to offer the rule in reverse i.e. form over substance.

I am interested in your perspective.

DWoolley

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sako
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby sako » Tue Aug 06, 2019 11:01 am

Mr. Woolley,
Thanks for your informative comment, "The following five (5)..." describes the course and bearing along a specific contour line which was requested by the City to show as the limit of the OSE, but I see your point and I take it. I learned to write a description avoiding ambiguities.
I decided, in some cases, to prove my point as valid through references to the consultant who accepted it, and accept the consultant's choice of wording in other cases to put an end to the back and fort letters.

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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby DWoolley » Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:35 pm

sako wrote:
I decided, in some cases, to prove my point as valid through references to the consultant who accepted it, and accept the consultant's choice of wording in other cases to put an end to the back and fort letters.


Sako,

Keep fighting the good fight. I believe it is imperative each professional speaks out against any incompetence. The professional aspects of land surveying is being lost and the community faces almost certain deregulation.

Thank you for the reply. I appreciate it.

DWoolley

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mpallamary
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby mpallamary » Tue Aug 06, 2019 7:37 pm

Remember that it is your license on the line. When the dust settles and all of the city employees move on or retire, there will only be one name and one name only associated with this work - that is your name and your license.

Mr. Woolley is correct.

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David Kendall
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby David Kendall » Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:10 pm

DWoolley wrote:1. Why would you use the language "...the following five (5) courses..."?

As I see it, there is no point or meaning to the phrase. Would it matter if there were 5, 10, 20 courses? Rhetorical question. Suppose the description said 5 course [and distances] and there were actually 6 courses? Nevermind the secondary issue as to whether or not it is technically correct. It appears to be meaningless language/words that serves no purpose - other than violating the primary rule in writing descriptions i.e. clear, concise and without ambiguity. Wouldn't "...described as follows:" suffice? First ask, why add words with no specific meaning or purpose?

DWoolley

A course would be a bearing only call. Technically correct.

I use the "course and distance" term frequently in legal descriptions as the OP says, preceding a list of common calls, e.g. crossing a parcel and without bounds or monuments, or along a creek or ROW line.

Here is an example from yesterday:

THENCE CROSSING SAID PARCEL 1 THE FOLLOWING THREE COURSES AND DISTANCES:
1) NORTH 71° 12’ 05” EAST 20.00 FEET;
2) SOUTH 18° 47’ 55” EAST 83.57 FEET TO THE NORTHEAST CORNER OF SAID “ACCESS ROAD”;
3) SOUTH 71° 12’ 05” WEST 20.00 FEET TO THE POINT OF BEGINNING;

Here is one from today without the course and distance call:

THENCE CROSSING SAID PARCEL:
SOUTH 59° 38’ WEST 33.00 FEET TO A POINT;
SOUTH 89° 30’ WEST 110.00 FEET TO THE POINT OF TERMINATION

This is about as concise as I can be in a legal description. The primary two (2) reasons why I use this term are as follows:

1. Custom - For some reason there are many "words with no specific meaning or purpose" in our common practice. Sometimes they are used for formality. My favorite is "Know all men by these presents" which sometimes shows up in subdivision map resolutions. I concur that it would be more concise to use YO, ACHTUNG, HARK, or just leave the whole thing out but there it is. Another is the term "that certain" preceding a map or deed reference. I also use THENCE and WHENCE out of custom. Damn near every description contains THENCE. What is the value? What would you say if a person in an agency review asked you to take THENCE out? I also find the term ‘situate’ to be a bit squirrelly but again it is commonly used, presumably out of tradition rather than being the perfect adjective for every occasion. Engineers ask me all the time if I accidentally left the D off of situate…

2. Accountibility - I have seen more than one time where a title company retypes a legal description in a new deed conveyance. I have no idea why they would do this but occasionally there is a call omitted or a 5 becomes an 8 or a NE bearing becomes a SE bearing. Indicating the number of calls in a list helps to ensure that none are accidentally omitted. In an extreme case of 47 courses and distances this could be useful as a check.
While it would be more concise to just say 'calls' instead of 'courses and distances' and maybe the entire introduction to the list serves no purpose. It would obviously save ink to just list the calls in every legal description but Wattles spelled out some goofy formalities that we all follow, some more goofy than others.

I for one am not interested in the personal whim of every surveyor who looks at my legal description. If you read it and thought it was junk and sent me a detailed and reasoned summary review then I may consider it. If you sent me some chicken scratch comments and an invoice for $500 then I would probably be offended.

Here are a few funny terms with no specific meaning or purpose that are commonly used in legal descriptions: thence, whence, hereinafter, situate, contiguous, uniform, said, heretofore, preceding, that, particular, to wit, to a point.….

Does anyone ever insert a four syllable word when a two syllable word will do just as well? How about excessive commas in legal descriptions? Is this a rampant trend which we want to spend our map review resources to correct?

There may be legal precedent for the use of course and distance of which I am not aware. Lawyers have a few funny terms of their own which I won’t go into.

Fact is, all of these things cause confusion and protect our ability to charge top dollar to produce a legal description full of words that only surveyors can understand. Yes, it would certainly be simpler to have a POB followed by a small font type paragraph of bearings and distances sprinkled with a few deed references and monument calls. It would also save paper, thereinafter being environmentally sustainable. Follow your own values!

I submit that a map review person who makes a suggestion like “remove the word distance and use course only” is A) probably not a surveyor and B) contributing to the deregulation of our profession.

There ought to be a law!

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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby hellsangle » Fri Aug 16, 2019 7:53 am

Well said, David.

All that counts is it clearly defines intend - even if you have to say at the end of description . . . "the intend is blah blah blah"

Have a good weekend, all . . . and stay hydrated!

Phil - Sonoma

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Olin Edmundson
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby Olin Edmundson » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:08 pm

"course" as it is used and understood, at least in this area, refers to the entire line segment, not just a synonym for "bearing" For example, in giving a tie, a description might read "beginning at 1/2" pipe at the most Northerly corner of Jones from which a 1/2" pipe at the Southerly terminus of the 'course' described in some certain deed as N45E, 100' bears..... Another example would be in giving a similar call that will apply for a few line segments (courses), a description that might read, "N10E, to the most Easterly corner of Jones, then along the Southeasterly lines of Jones, the following five courses" Then at the sixth course, "leaving the lands of Jones"

If you were going to use a synonym for "bearing" it would probably be "direction" or "azimuth" unless you're a sailor or pilot, then maybe "course".

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Olin Edmundson
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby Olin Edmundson » Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:14 am

Looks like back in 1858 we were using the term technically correct around here, other old rancho maps use similar table, but sometime after have slipped into habit of using "course" to refer to both bearing and distance.

https://gis.santacruzcounty.us/DPWScans ... 022M14.pdf

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Proud7191
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Re: Definition of "course" in description

Postby Proud7191 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:50 pm

Not to change the topic but you got to love it! Under the title circle...”AS FINALLY CONFIRMED to Martino Castro”. Those poor people had a very hard time confirming Ranchos and it is my understanding that squatters had the rights back then per a couple of books I have read on the subject. Jp

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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby E_Page » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:07 am

Whether you say "... the following 5 courses..." or "... the filliwing 5 courses and distances..." is nitpicking.

In common usage, surveying, navigation, and other uses that require the specification of direction and distance have commonly used "course" to refer to a line's direction and distance.

For the purposes of a land description, it is an extremely rare case where it is appropriate to designate a portion of a boundary by direction only. In most instances, a segment of boundary designated by direction only would be inadequate unless there are very clear calls to bounds at both ends. And even in that, you are calling a distance (you're just not directly quantifying it in standard terms, but rather saying "whatever distance exists between [the bounding calls]).

Whichever you use, the reader will know that directiin and distance define each segment. That's true whether they insist that it must be stated one way or the other. Thus, some might get needlessly hung up on the exact use of archaic language form, but there will be no ambiguity. The meaning will be clear.

Someone (Dave, I think) mentioned that even having the lead in of "... the following X courses (or corses and distances) is unnecessary. Perhaps. Strictly speaking, it doesn't change the description either way. But I prefer to use the descriptive device as informational.

In reviewing descriptions, I often will be looking specifically for the courses common to an adjacent property. When a description has this sort of enumeration, it's much easier to follow. Many of the descriptions I work with have dozens and sometimes hundreds of courses. Working through a description that extensive written as one long run-on paragraph can be tough to follow, particularly if an interruption like a phone call or a colleague with a question occurs while reading the description.

Having encountered long descriptions that don't close, the device of calling a number of common courses with adjacent properties or features can be helpful in identifying a missing course.

While I advocate using plain language as much as possible and eliminating utterly meaningless wording (i.e. "that certain..." which never, ever makes whatever follows more certain), I also advocate including matters which while merely informational, can aid in finding errors in writing or transcription while not adding any confusion.
Evan Page, PLS
A Certain Forum Essayist

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Olin Edmundson
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby Olin Edmundson » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:38 pm

I just happened to come across this description today that contains both usages.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

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Olin Edmundson
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Re: Definition of "course" in description

Postby Olin Edmundson » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:40 pm

Proud7191 wrote:Not to change the topic but you got to love it! Under the title circle...”AS FINALLY CONFIRMED to Martino Castro”. Those poor people had a very hard time confirming Ranchos and it is my understanding that squatters had the rights back then per a couple of books I have read on the subject. Jp

The story is that Martina Castro went from being the largest landowner in Santa Cruz County to completely destitute at the time of her death.

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land butcher
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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby land butcher » Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:55 am

I have noticed a major increase in "nitpicking" maps and legals in recent years, I attribute it to:
Poorly trained personnel at cities and quasi govt agencies such as water/sewer districts.
Poorly trained personnel attempting to make themselves look smarter than the licensed professional.
Private companies consulting to the local agency on T&M basis padding their bottom line and making themselves look more useful than they need to be.
All of the above, being right or wrong, are always right in the eyes of the dept heads.
The inability to fire incompetent govt employees due to elected officials, owned by the unions, approving govt employee contracts that give govt employees jobs for life whether they do the job competently or not.

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Re: Definition of "course" in descriptions

Postby JMS8070 » Thu Sep 05, 2019 2:33 pm

Personally, I use "Course" to mean bearing and distance. Having said that, here is what my "Definitions of Surveying and Associated Terms" from ACSM & ASCE says:

"course - 1) (Land Surveying) The bearing of a line; also the bearing and length of a line. 2) (Transit traverse) The azimuth and length of a line, considered together."

Looks like both are correct to me. Ain't surveying great...you NEVER have a definite answer...the contrary is always shown!


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