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Self organisation

Watching children develop physical skills is breath-taking. Aside from the lack of ego or pride which allows them to persist in spite of failure, the way in which they learn new movement is also lesson to all adults.

Motivated to achieve some task like standing, walking or hitting a tree with a stick, kids instinctively use their learning toolkit extremely effectively. Watching and copying is one element perhaps, but trial and error is key. Free from "instruction", they can figure out the best way to say, hit a tree hard, simply by boshing it and listening to the increasing noise it makes. Their bodies self organise.

Self organised movement

Self organised movement is where, in attempting to solve a task or physical problem, the brain & body go to work and refine a technique until it gets the job done. Remember the brain and body form a continuous loop, where the brain perceives a task, and sends messages to the body to act.

Simultaneously feedback receptors send information back to the brain, allowing subconscious corrections and refinements. To reiterate, central to this process is the focus is achieving a task, not conforming to a prescribed technique.

The technique evolves as a by-product of attempting the task. It's remarkable, actually, and it's also how we learned 99.9% of physical skills in life.

The problem in golf

You can see where I am going with this. Probably more than any other sport, golf is synonymous with: prescribed technique, contrived movement and paralysis by analysis. Not only does excessive explicit instruction not leverage the bounty offered by self-organised movement, it blocks it.

Self org benefits

Task relevant

This is such a blisteringly massive point, it should be in neon lights. Self organised golf swings learnt by attempting the task (of delivering the club through impact) is thus relevant movement. This is frequently sacrificed in exclusively body-focused instruction.

Learnt quick and retained longer

Forming or refining a motor pattern (the brains circuitry for a golf swing or putting stroke) is more effectively learned and encoded in the brain when learnt in this manner. It's how we are wired to learn.

You own it

Golfers with overly-prescribed swings, dependant on multiple swing thoughts (or cues), are on the whole less reliable and harder to reassemble when they go wrong. Self organised movement is truly learned. The phrase"it's like riding a bike"means you don't forget how to do it. Golf is so much easier when you own your swing.


As a coach I use explicit instruction (e.g. turn the belt buckle) sparingly. I prefer to use task-led instruction to draw out self-organised movement for the reasons above. It continually marvels me how quickly a golfer can display a superior technique when the task is clear and they are encouraged to re-engage their instinctive self organising abilities.

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