Let’s put this issue to bed for good. “Coach, I am 67 years old… don’t you think I am too…   just pick one…old, set in my ways, weak, inflexible, stiff, infirm, stubborn…) to make some changes in my swing and get better?  After all, … you can’t teach old dog new tricks!

In the past few months I’ve been inspired by watching a miracle unfold in Australia. This miracle should cause us all to pause and recognize that the lid to the mental box most of us live in should be opened on a regular basis and the contents examined.  Let me tell you about John Maclean – a paraplegic athlete who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1988 after being hit by an 8-ton truck during a training run on a bike. The impact resulted in John suffering multiple breaks to his pelvis and back, a fractured sternum, punctured lungs, a broken arm, and being left a paraplegic. So what is the inspiration? In 2013, after 25 years in his wheel chair, John has re-learned how to walk. The old dog learned a pretty serious new trick!

Prior to his accident, John was a world-class athlete in his chosen sport of rugby. He is still a world-class sportsperson. His list of accomplishments since his accident boggles the mind.  In addition to being a motivational speaker and running his own company, he has found the time to do the following. Keep in mind this is but a few of his accomplishments:

  • In 1997, he not only finished the Hawaii Ironman Competition within the able-bodied cut-off times, he beat a third of the field and became the first ever wheelchair-category winner
  • In 2002, John became the first non-American inducted into the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame
  • The 1998, he was recognized as the first wheelchair athlete to swim the English Channel
  • In 2005, he completed the grueling Molokai Ocean Challenge (World Championships for open water paddling)
  • He represented Australia at the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and in 2001 he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
  • In 2006, John completed the invitation-only extreme endurance event, the Ultraman World Championships, in Hawaii. (Covering a total distance of 320 miles (515 kilometers), on the Big Island of Hawaii. It requires that each participant complete a 6.2 mile (10 K) open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile (421 K) cross-country bike ride, and a 52.4 mile (84 K) ultra-marathon run)
  • Early in 2007, John took on the sport of rowing. In September 2007 he and his rowing partner claimed a silver medal at the Rowing World Championships, and followed up with GOLD at the International Regatta in Italy in April 2008. He won Rowing silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games
  • John later qualified for the 2012 Paralympic Games – and the list continues…

What is clear to all his fans is that he has lived an extraordinary life since his accident and is driven by his personal motto “ONLY POSSIBILITIES”.

I became familiar with John and started following his adventures a few years ago through a good friend of mine, an Australian named David Knight. An endurance athlete himself, David personally swam the English Channel with John and he has regaled me over the years with stories of his ‘mate’ John and John’s achievements from a wheelchair. When David sent me a link to a YouTube chronicling John’s remarkable personal developments, at first I found it hard to believe. Think on this:  after 25 years of being in a wheel chair, I was watching pictures of John walking on the beach unaided. It wasn’t a pretty or graceful sight, but neither is that wheelchair.

What Happened?

The foundation for John Maclean’s ‘miracle’ is based on the insights of another brilliant chap in Australia named Ken Ware. A former world-champion body builder (Mr. Universe) himself, Ken had observed certain phenomena over the years about what happens when the body is placed under a controlled stress (induced by lifting very light weights in a specific way) causing the production of uncontrollable tremors in the body.

The fundamental insight Ken observed was that as a result of this particular tremor activity, the body re-organized itself, the affected body system UPGRADED itself.  For example, if you had a frozen shoulder, after a tremor experience, the shoulder had more flex than prior to the tremor. Ken has frequently commented. “This is true for 100% of the people, 100% of the time.”

Ken Ware’s breakthrough insights are re-defining how we think about serious debilitations like spinal cord damage and even stroke. Fundamentally, Ken is utilizing the underlying principles of chaos theory. That is: the system will eventually and always re-organize itself into a more stable and robust system. When you increase a system’s complexity (ask it to do something new), you create new neural nets that have the potential to be better than the previous ones. Let me repeat: this is true for 100% of the people, 100% of the time.

What Does this Mean for Your Golf Game and Being an Old Dog?

There are several lessons to be learned from John Maclean and his miracle.


  • First and foremost, you must be willing to change and recognize that it is possible. Imagine if John Maclean told Ken Ware. “Forget it, I’ve been in this wheel chair for 25 years and it is not possible for me to walk again.”
  • Second is the lesson that we all can change, whenever we decide to.  To begin changing, all that is necessary is to do what the science guys call ‘perturbing the system’.  This means change what you are doing and interrupt the old patterns.
  • To cause change, you must first de-stabilize the existing model and give it a chance to re-organize. YOU will ALWAYS change the system, especially if exposed to a consistent and new request.

At Graves Golf, we are supporting your change by providing you with a full set of complementary tools for you to interrupt the old patterns and establish new and more effective patterns. This means you will get better if you make a change.


We have available the following for you:


  1. New information (DVD’s, web-based information, webinars and individual coaching)
  2. New methods to train and learn (allowing you to perturb your system/mind/body)
  3. Training aids to support and integrate the new learning. (6-Iron Training Club, Alignment and Ball Position Trainer, Short Game Alignment Board and GGA Putting System)
  4. Support Systems – Schools around the country, webinars and On-line Academy via the 360 Program

If you are an ‘old dog’ and you want to learn some new tricks, I’d encourage you to get started now. If John Maclean can begin to retrain his body to walk after 25 years in a wheel chair, certainly you can begin to change your golf swing. You are NEVER too old to learn. Besides, maybe those new tricks will win you your next club championship, The A flight tourney or a beer from your foursome.

About the Author:  Ron Cruickshank, PhD, is a GGA Master Instructor and Golf Coach in Toronto, Canada  Go on-line and book a one day Moe Norman Golf Experience at Royal Ashburn Golf Club in Whitby, Ontario. He can be reached directly via phone at 647-892-4653 or email at:   drron@moenormangolf.com