Self Organizing for Golf

Self Organizing for Golf

Self organizing (in movement theory) refers to how the biological organism can automatically arrange all of the necessary movements needed to achieve its goal. Normally, this is better achieved with a focus/awareness of the goal itself, allowing the movements required to develop subconsciously.

The motion of the fingers wrist, elbow, shoulder and body (as well as all the forces, release of forces and timings of the releases) are automatically arranged in a harmonious blend to achieve the desired goal. The movement is not consciously dissected, but arises from subconscious mechanisms.

This is in stark contrast to consciously arranged movement, where players direct movement through a heightened awareness,and usually an internal focus of attention (E.g. “move my left arm this way”).

As a simplistic example, if a person wishes to put a fork into their mouth, the brain will arrange correct combinations of movements at the shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers to achieve this goal, by using the correct forces and torques required to create this movement.

As a more complex example, a human body during walking will arrange all of the joint angles, centre of pressure/centre of mass relationships, ground reaction forces, muscle firing sequences, acceleration and deceleration profiles (and much more) TOGETHER in a way which achieves the goal (walking).



Synergy and Harmony

The organism can also select many different subtle movement combinations (variable blends of the above), or wild variances (running, jumping, crawling), to achieve the goal, but these combinations must be a harmonious blend; if just one change were to happen without a corresponding blend of other changes which match it, the whole movement may fail. For example, in putting a fork into our mouth, you couldn’t have the wrist doing the right thing but the elbow doing the wrong thing. It all has to work together – the concept of wholeness.


Self organizing is the way that movements are learned in nature. Our brain pushes and pulls all of the variables in the right amounts at the right times, gradually getting closer to achieving its end goal. Initially, the system is very chaotic – but through positive feedback, variables are closed down synergistically until the system has self organized into something functional.

In order to effectively self organize, it generally requires that

  • The task is understood
  • The focus/awareness is on the task
  • Feeback is given relating to the task
  • The environment and equipment encourage it
  • The person is not bound by fear of a mistake
  • The person has the physical capability to do it (this can be one of the variables which adapts)
  • Variations are explored
  • The player has tools to be able to create a change (usually derived from exploration of variations)
  • Enough time is given
  • There is enough internal pressure (the result doesn’t match their intention) to encourage change/exploration
  • The coach understands that where the player currently is and where they desire to be needs to be bridged and not teleported


People often state that “If self organizing worked, we would have better golfers everywhere”. Look to the above bullet points for reasons as to why self organizing of better patterns may not be happening.

The below video shows an example of how a specific kinematic sequence, complete with appropriate acceleration/deceleration and kinetics can occur when the above is in place.

The Strike Plan includes many concepts and drills which encourage self-organization of better technique. Click the image below to find out more.

Strike plan enter


  • Bill Oliver

    You use terms like ‘technique’ and ‘skill’ interchangeably it seems, yet in other places you imply a difference e.g. relating ‘technique’ more to ‘form’ and ‘skill’ to ‘function’. Thus, is swinging the club in a balanced manner i.e. on plane a ‘technique or form’ item that can be ignored in favour of focusing on say centeredness of face contact or low point control which would be a ‘skill or function’ item??

    A second question relates to practice regimes. Blocked Practice together with the internal focus of attention seems to be getting bad press currently. Flavour of the month is Random Practice, Optimal Challenge Points and all the rest and with it the external focus of attention. Where does a low variability learning regime and repetition still have applicability?? Or does it??

    Your guidance would be appreciated. Thank you, Bill

    • admin

      Hi Bill. I will have an article soon on the diff between tech and skill specifically. To answer your question, swinging the club on a certain plane is a technique, but it is not more important than focusing on the strike quality. It would be pointless to swing the club on a certain plane and strike 3 inches behind the ball. In terms of blocked practice question – I believe all forms of practice have value – it depends on the goal. Generally, building a new movement would require more reps/blocked fashion. But transferring a movement to the course would require more context/less reps. The internal/external thing is player-dependent. External tends to help coordination, but internal can help the general movement pattern be better. It depends what the player needs. As a coach, I address this with each pupil on their level

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