Wiring up the nervous system depends on the precise guidance of axonal growth cones to their targets. A key mechanism underlying this guidance is chemotaxis, whereby growth cones detect and follow molecular gradients. Although recent work has uncovered many of the molecules involved in this process, the mechanisms underlying chemotactic axon guidance are still unclear. Here we compare growth cones with neutrophils and Dictyostelium discoideum, systems for which a clear conceptual framework for chemotaxis has recently emerged. This analogy suggests particular ways in which the three key steps of directional sensing, polarisation and motility might be implemented in chemotaxing growth cones.