Sunday, May 30, 2010

“You Have A Great Swing”

I get that a lot from people.

And I just want to punch them in the face.

It is not their fault. And I am not a jerk. It is just that this particular compliment, well intentioned, is the equivalent of a girl who knows she is 40 pounds overweight, being constantly told “you have such a fun personality” or “you have a beautiful face.”

My golf swing sucks.

Proof? Here. These are my golf scores starting from May 1st.

89, 85, 81, 95, 91, 89, 86, 88, 82.

That's a nice little 87.3 average. Or, about a 15 handicap.

Wow, what a great swing I have. The joy.

Now I bet many of you are saying: “You prick, Czabe. I would LOVE to have your swing. I shoot 100!”

Okay, tough guy. You can have my swing. But pretend that you put in the price to get it. Accept the fact that I have spent my whole life playing the game obsessively (32 years). I have taken HUNDREDS of formal lessons. I have looked at my swing on video for years and years. I have bought (no lie) over 100 training aids. I practice at least twice a week during the golf season. I play usually twice a week.

There. Now you can have my swing. Take this pile of shit swing, go out and shoot your 88, and just float home on cloud nine thinking how fun golf is.

You can say: “Hey Czabe, work on your short game and wedges! That's where scoring comes from.”

Yes, you are correct. However, with THIS pile of monkey dung move, I'll shoot 81 when my short game and putting is ON, and it's a 90 when not.

I just refuse to spend my life scrambling to break 80.

Many people ask me: “Did losing all that weight on P90x help your golf game?”

Answer: No. Not a bit.

In fact, if you go through P90x – and you know I strongly recommend it – do not expect it to help your golf game at all. Your SHIRTS will fit better. But that's about it. All the supposed increases in flexibility by doing Yoga and stretch routines in P90x?

Whatever. Haven't seen a lick of good when I swipe at the little dimpled ball.

I know what is going to happen with my golf this summer. Because I have charted it.

Come July, my scores will come down. I will – on the right course, with the right conditions, with my swing feeling just right – shoot a 74, or 75, or 76.

I will do this about 5 or 6 more times before the year is out. Of my 40 or so annual rounds, the 10 best of the last 20 will make up my handicap.

And plugging my scores dutifully into the ol' USGA computer, it will spit out a joke of an index like 4.3.

Ha. Yeah. Sure. I'm a 4 handicap. If I am honest, I state this on the first tee of a friendly match. Then I get fleeced. The handicap system is complete bullshit. I understand the THEORY on why they discard the WORST 10 rounds of your last twenty. It is to prevent tanking. Two ballooned scores can skew your number upward in a way that doesn't reflect you at your best.

But how can the USGA index just IGNORE the fact that some of us actually DO have a 20 stroke margin from playing well to playing poorly? If I play you for $5 a side, I might shoot 75 or 95. That's a fact! How the hell do I know what's coming out of my bag that day?

Some would say it's only natural that scores for a weekend golfer would come down as the season goes on. The more you play, the better your game gets. I understand this.

But with me, there's no way I should be shooting around 90 just because it's not yet June 1. My spread of scores should NOT be 74-95. It should be 72-82.

Now here's what is driving me to the brink of taking up fishing. I KNOW what my problem is. I see it. I understand it.

I just can't fix it.

And I have had several really good teaching pros try to help me. They have all failed.

Here is a sheet of swing stillcaps that illustrate my problem. And it needs to be noted, these are not other TOUR pros I am highlighting. These are guys like me. Weekend players. I consider them my peers. They were taken at last year's Potomac Cup Finals. I just want to be like them. Good weekend amateurs. I want to carry the ball 265 off the tee. That's all. Not 290, 300. Just give me 260. With a little 10 yards of roll, 275 will feel like heaven!

Currently, I carry the ball 245 off the tee with my driver when I sting it. That's lame. When I hit it mediocre, it's 230. When I miss it, it's down in the 220 range.

That's embarrassing, and no way to play golf. Not with drivers the size of titanium toasters.

There is nothing athletically these other guys do, that I can't. They don't practice any harder than I do.

So what's the problem?

Well, let me say one last thing before we get into that. I know what is NOT the problem. The problem is NOT me being too obsessed with video analysis, positions, etc. I had a couple of guys I play with – good players, better than me, and guys I consider to be friends – who both said (essentially) “Czabe, you just need to go out and PLAY. Forget about all this stuff. Just pick a target, and swing to it. The game isn't that complicated.”

Easy for you to say, I thought to myself. You hit the ball properly.

I, do not.

My swing may “look” good. But it's nothing much more than an elegant slap at the ball. It is entirely timing dependent, and thus it requires most of the season to figure it out. Old men, hit it farther than I do.

Until I learn to properly swing through impact, my golf game will be eternally maddening.

If you look at these photos, you can see what every decent player does at impact. Shoulders square or slightly open to target line. At least one ass cheek visible, maybe two, showing good hip rotation PRIOR to impact. Right arm lower than left.

Me? Shoulders closed to target line (and hunched). Arms covering each other. Hips square. Right leg straight. Bad, bad, bad, and bad.

This is a TIMING based swing. Yes, there are a lot of good elements to it. I really like the position I now get into at the top. But it turns into a weak slap by the time I get to the ball. When I TIME it perfectly, it works.

Fundamentally though, through the ball, it is un-sound.

It is weak. It is inconsistent.

This swing produces flips and flares. The straight balls are not very powerful. For example, during a typical round, you have 14 drives. Half the time, I'll hit a good one. 250 in the fairway. The other half, are snipe hooks and fearful balloon pushes.

These are almost certain bogeys. Often, worse.

So even if I would PAR all of my “good” drives, I'm still starting each round at about 80 for my best possible score. They say “drive for show, putt for dough.” That saying is a lie. It only applies to tour pros, who can all drive the ball great.

Amateurs like me, NEED to put the ball in play consistently, and with relative power.

With this swing, I should just be a once-a-week player, who never practices, and drinks beer on the course. There's something to be said for that, mind you, and I do not judge others who choose this route.

I only wish I could embrace that golf lifestyle. Maybe I'm just not ready yet. Maybe I'll never be able to embrace it.

I am working with a pro now, and I trust in what he's teaching me. I am working diligently on the drills he's laid out to address this issue. I understand it will take time.

But I am more deeply skeptical than ever that I will ever become a good ballstriker. I try to put myself into the correct impact position, then practice taking half swings with that exact position in mind.

I go look at the video tape. It's the damn same as before.

I fear that I have spent too many years, ingraining a crappy slap-move at the ball, that will be impossible to fully correct.

Am I fishing for help here, fellow golfers? Do I sound desperate? Yes. Yes, I am.

All the while, fellow golfers, friends, and strangers will continue to say: “You have such a nice swing, Czabe.”

I am the fat girl with the great personality, and pretty face. Deeply depressed, and ready to bury my sorrows in a box of Twinkies on the couch.





Saturday May 29, 2010 - 1757 Golf Club from Steve Czaban on Vimeo.


  1. Frickin' A! Have you been reading my mind? I get the same compliments at the driving range and wanna just scream. The WORST tho, I've tried to quit this damn curse and can't even do that. I suspect "fishin" isn't gonna hack it for ya...your gonna HAVE to fix this.

    right heel....keep in planted on the ground as you move into the hitting zone. (it'll keep your body more stable...your chest won't raise up as much. Check out Nippleson or Kenny Perry)

    " They say “drive for show, putt for dough.” That saying is a lie."
    AMEN ! ! ! ! ! !
    If you can consistantly hit the fairway, 240+, You'll almost ALWAYS post something in the 70's! Missing GIR and birdie putts will be LESS penal than missing fairways off the tee.

  2. I feel your pain, man. Sounds like our games are about the same. Both a couple of addicts who keep chasing the same ultimate high. No matter how good you get, you'll always feel like you could do a little better.
    I got bad news for you, at our ages, this is probably as good as we'll ever be.
    I quit tracking my score and handicap a few years ago. Now I just play my buddies in skins games and hope the beverage cart girl has her rack hanging out.

  3. I’m no pro, but you do have a good swing except from the top of your backswing to impact. You’re rotationally “backwards”. Instead of your hips initiating the turn it looks like your shoulders are pulling your hips along for the ride. That’s why you can’t see your ass and your legs are straight at impact. That is also why your not hitting it as far as your think you should. The swing starts from the ground up with each body part giving the one above it something to pull against. Your hips aren’t there for your back muscles to pull against so you’re not getting a good coil to your spine. The result is a lose of rotational speed. Your problem is more sequence than timing. I know, I know, I’ll preemptively go fuck myself.

  4. I think everyone has a limit to how low they can lower their golf score. The game just comes to some people more naturally than others. I don't think the amount of time and passion you put into it makes the difference you would think it would. I shoot around a hundred and am at peace with it.

  5. I was going to comment on the swing, but beaver hit the nail on the head. Good job.

  6. Looks like we have the next candidate for the Haney Project!!
    Just remember Czabe, it's all in the hips, it's all in the hips.
    BTW, it's not so much that you have a great swing as you appear to have good tempo.

  7. You need to stay in an athletic posture from the top of the backswing through the ball. The knee flex and spine angle at address should be the same through the ball. I would also suggest getting the club a little more around your body to keep from getting over the top. Coming over the top and straightening up will produce toe hooks or high flares to the right depending on your weight shift, and reduced distance. Get your belt buckle going toward the target and swing around your left hip going through.

    I found the same thing in my swing and went from a 2 to scratch in one year, and I only play about 10 rounds per year. A lot of it was mental though. I stopped trying to pull off shots I had to hit perfectly to make. I take an extra half club and swing smoother. I think only about the shot at hand and try not to think about golf when not playing a shot. I also started drinking on the course. I have more fun and I shoot better scores.

    Get a full length mirror and have someone put a pice of tape on the mirror where your chin is at address. Practice swinging while looking at the mirror and keep your head still. This will keep your spine angle and produce much more consistent ball striking.

  8. Sounds like some good tips here. Man, swing the effing club already! Don't poof at it. Get some rotational momentum going and nail that sumbitch! Show them effers in the Potomac cup who's the man. YOU are Czabe!

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  10. Czabe, What you have is a "hockey muscle memory hangover". Go to the local hardware store and by a serrated edge weed whacker. Leave a patch of lawn in the back yard 3' x 15' unmowed. When the grass is 1' tall, grab the weed wacker and start wackin. Start with left hand only (non-dominate) cutting on the forward and reverse stroke. Swing the arm from the shoulder, keep a steady rythem and try to cut as much as possible with every stroke. Keep working untill your tired then switch to dominate hand. Once you have the rythem down squeeze the handle while you swing to keep the blade perpendicular to your shoulders. If it doesn't help, eh...I tried.

  11. Never take advice about rhythm from a guy that can't spell rhythm. Besides, it sounds like he'll have you doing his yard work for him within a month. If you take swing tips from any of these guys, you'll screw your swing up for the rest of the summer. Even though you don't want to hear it, working on your short game is the only hope for a hack like you.

  12. I used to have the same problem as you did. You're essentially "all arms". I bet that even swinging like a big wound-up ape you're not getting good distance on the ball.

    To fix this problem I had to really work it out at the range, and even more-so before that in the yard swinging at nothing. I had to work on driving my swing with my hips/shoulders rather than my arms. It's tough to change something so fundamental as this especially when you've been swinging the opposite way your whole life. It took about 8-10 weeks to change it for me. I've noticed improved distance though with all my clubs after I got it fixed. (10-30 yards, depending)

    My advice to you: play this season as normal and have fun. But if you're still not satisfied with what you have, you may have to break your swing to fix it in the offseason, and spend the time to re-train your body.

  13. Let me preface these remarks by saying that I do not play golf but I have
    offered to carry on a couple of occasions. I am a computer programmer and a lot
    of my job is looking for patterns in data and code. I took a good look at the
    pictures that you posted on your blog and have a few observations.

    Comparing the pictures of you and Lee and looking at the video, it looks like
    you are apprehensive about chunking the ball. As you reach the bottom of your
    swing your legs stiffen up and your back humps over to compensate. I think the
    stiffening of your legs is not allowing your hips to rotate through. This also
    makes you extend your back arm away from your body.

    Just for grins, try choking up on your club. You will start topping the balls
    for a while but I think as you try to adjust to this you will start to relax at
    the knees and this will loosen your hips. Once you start to bend your knees a
    little you will draw your back arm closer to your body.

  14. This is hilarious and a sign of true desperation. I am confident that if you follow this advice you will get worse much faster than you otherwise would.

    My scores go down in July-August, too. That's when the rough dies in VA.

    FYI, you should only better your handicap about one round in five. Our USGA system is far better than the R&A, when you are assigned a starting handicap and it basically stays the same for the rest of your life.