A shank shot is a very destructive and embarrassing shot in the game of golf. Use this tip to hit the ball out of the centre of the golf club.
A shank is defined as a golf shot when the ball is struck from the hosel of the golf club which is part of the club head of an iron golf club. An iron golf club has three parts: the club head, the shaft and the grip. The hosel is the part of the club head where the shaft of the golf club meets the club head. A shot struck from this part of the golf club shoots low and sharply right (for right handed golfers) and can often produce a cracking or snapping sound.
The main reason for shanking the golf ball is because of a domination of the upper body in the downswing as the golfer tries to hit the ball as hard as possible. This often happens if the golfer is inflexible or is not muscularly strong as the golfer is trying to generate as much power as possible but not necessarily in the correct fashion. With this motion, the golfer drives the club into the ball with the shoulders from the top of the backswing, this is often termed hitting from the top. This causes a very steep downward and outward motion of the club head causing the golf club to come away from the body in the downswing. At the moment of impact, the club head has moved further away from the body than when it began at set up, and so contacts the ball on the inside edge or hosel causing a shank shot.
To strike the ball from the middle of the golf club rather than the hosel area try this exercise. Set up two golf balls three inches apart in a line, 90 degrees to the target line. We now have an inside ball which is the ball closest to the golfer and an outside ball, three inches further away from the golfer. Set up normally to the inside ball, swing and aim to miss the golf ball on the inside by swinging closer to the body. The club head should swing close to the body and sweep the ground next to the ball. This action gives the feeling of swinging in the opposite direction to that of a shank shot and helps the golfer to feel what it is like to swing close to the body away from the hosel of the golf club. Once this has been done two to three times, set up to the outside ball and aim to swing and hit the inside ball. This produces the same feeling but with a golf ball in the way. Finally set up to and hit the same ball but still maintain the feeling of swinging close to the body.
This is an excellent exercise to feel where the club head is at impact and understand which part of the golf club is contacting the golf ball, allowing the golfer to avoid that shank shot.
Hitting Shots off the Clubs Heel – How to Correct the Problem
For every swing that you make on the golf course, the objective is pretty simple – to hit the ball with the center of the club face. When you are able to make contact with the ball on the sweet spot of the club, you will stand a far better chance to hit a good shot. The center of the club face is where the most distance is to be found, and the best accuracy as well. If you are regularly hitting shots off the toe or heel of the club, you are going to struggle with your control in terms of both distance and direction.
The content below will focus on the problem of hitting the ball off the heel of the club. If you only hit the ball off the heel every once in a while, there probably isn't anything to worry about in your swing. After all, no golfer is perfect, and striking the ball with the center of the club face on every single shot just isn't realistic. However, if you are making contact with the ball on the heel of the club again and again, there is likely something wrong in your technique. In order to improve your game and add consistency to your ball flight, correcting this error should be one of your top priorities.
There is a positive to be found in this situation, even if you are currently miss-hitting most of your shots off the heel of the club. The simple fact that you are hitting the same spot on your club face over and over again means that your swing is consistent and repeatable. Of course, you don't want to be consistent hitting the heel of the club, but that is still better than missing all over the club face with no pattern to be found. In order to take a step forward, you will need to correct the error that is causing the miss-hit while still maintaining the repeatability in your swing.
If you are unsure of where on the club face you are making contact with the ball, try using impact tape to quickly identify your impact patterns. This tape is applied directly to the face of the club, and can be purchased at most golf stores on online. Hit a few shots on the driving range with the tape in place and you will have a visual guide to your tendencies at impact. If this process shows that you are making contact with the ball off the heel of the club regularly, the next step is to work on improving your technique to fix the problem.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
Deal with the Driver First
The first club you want to work on solving is the driver. If you are hitting the ball off the heel of your driver regularly, the ball flight that you are producing probably isnt very useful. Most likely, it is a weak fade that comes up short and right of the target. Losing distance off your drives by hitting the heel of the club will make the game harder due to having to play longer approach shots from the rough. Improve the quality of impact that you are making with your driver first and the rest of the game should get a little bit easier.
There are a few different possible causes of hitting your driver shots off the heel of the club. Most likely, the mistake that you are making is contained in one of the three points below –
- Losing your posture. It is important to start the golf swing with a good posture – and it is just as important to maintain that posture throughout the swing. If you lose your posture during the downswing and allow your body to bend over from the waist, you will run the risk of hitting the ball off the heel of your driver. The best way to check for this mistake is to record your swing on video and watch the position of your head during the downswing. If it moves down closer to the ball, you will know that you are losing track of your posture. Try keeping your head stable in the downswing while your body rotates toward the target. Stability makes the golf swing easier, so try to eliminate as much unnecessary movement from your swing as possible. Work on holding your posture all the way through the swing and you should find that you hit fewer shots off the heel.
- Over the top. The common mistake made by golfers who slice the ball is taking the club over the top during the transition from backswing to downswing. Over the top means that instead of the club dropping down during the transition and attacking the ball from the inside, you are moving the club up and away from your body at the top of the swing. That means that you will have to swing from the outside just to hit the ball, and your impact on the heel of the club. To get rid of your over the top mistake, try making a wider backswing. With better extension in your backswing to create room for the club to swing down, the slice – and the shots off the clubs heel – should quickly disappear.
- Teeing the ball too low. It is possible to create heel impact on your driver simply by teeing the ball up too low. When you don't tee the ball high enough off the ground for your driver to get under the shot comfortably, you will be forced to swing from an outside-in path (much like you do when hitting a slice). That outside-in path will give you a chance to pick the ball off the tee without hitting the ground, but it can also lead to shots that are struck with the heel of the club. If you think this might be the mistake that you are making, try teeing the ball up about a half an inch higher and hit a few drives. There may be a few adjustments that you have to make, but you should quickly notice that it is easier to find the sweet spot of the club.
Work through each of these three points to see if you can solve your problem of hitting driver shots off the heel of the club. As soon as you learn to hit the sweet spot more often, you will be amazed at how much distance you can gain, in addition to having better accuracy.
Fix Your Fairway Woods in the Same Manner as the Driver
Once you have worked through the points above and successfully corrected your issue with the driver, you can apply the same methods to the shots that you hit with your fairway woods. The only point from above that doesn't apply to fairway woods is the one regarding tee height. However, the other two issues are ones that are likely to be present in your fairway wood swing if you found them when hitting your driver. The mechanics of the swing with a driver and with your fairway woods are extremely similar, so any swing faults present with one are likely present with the other.
Hitting fairway wood shots off the heel of the club face is a problem for a couple of reasons. First is the distance that you will lose when hitting these clubs both off the tee and from the fairway. When using a fairway wood from the tee, you are usually looking for a combination of accuracy and distance to position your ball for a good approach shot into a par four hole. By hitting the ball consistently off the heel, you wont be able to achieve your usual distance – and you may have to hit driver more frequently as a result.
The other problem that comes with hitting the ball off the heel of the club is the inability to manage your ball flight and get the ball to land in the fairway. As mentioned above, fairway woods are often used for the ability to be accurate, but that accuracy goes out the window when you make heel contact. If you aren't able to hit straight shot on a regular basis with your fairway woods, they wont be of any use to you out on the course. Only when you know exactly what to expect from your fairway woods on each and every swing can you develop the trust that it takes to use them effectively.
Hopefully, once you have fixed the problems that were causing you to make heel contact with your driver, that same problem will go away with your fairway woods. However, if the problem persists even after you are hitting your driver in the sweet spot consistently, you might need to look at the shafts that you are using in your fairway woods. If they are too stiff for your swing speed, it could actually be the shafts that are causing the heel impact. Try experimenting with different shaft flexes at your local golf shop to see if it is an equipment issue that is leading to the frustrating mistake of hitting your fairway wood shots off the clubs heel.
The Danger of Making Heel Impact with Your Irons
Hitting iron shots off of the heel of the club is a problem for many of the reasons included above in reference to the driver and fairway woods. Shots struck off of the heel of your irons aren't going to fly as far as those that are hit on the sweet spot, and they may drift off to the right as well. In order to hit accurate irons that cover the perfect distance and stop right next to the hole, it is imperative that you strike the sweet spot as frequently as possible.
With that said, there is another concern when it comes to hitting iron shots off the heel that is even more important – the dreaded shank. A shot that is hit on the heel of one of your irons is only millimeters from hitting the hosel and becoming a shank that shoots immediately to the right. There is likely no shot in golf that is as frustrating or as embarrassing as the shank, so you want to avoid this outcome at all costs. In fact, it is usually better to simply whiff the shot than hit a shank, because a shank will typically come to rest in a bad spot on the course. At least with a whiff you will get to try hitting the shot again from the same spot.
If your irons are being struck regularly on the heel of the club face and you are afraid that you will start hitting some shanks, use the tips below to get your swing corrected as soon as possible.
- Bend your knees. Players who struggle hitting irons off the heel of the club face frequently lack the proper bend in their knees to reach a good posture. Before starting your swings on the driving range, try adding a small amount of extra knee flex to your stance. This change will engage your legs in the swing properly, which will help you to maintain your posture and avoid moving closer to the ball in the downswing.
- Swing through aggressively. A lack of confidence in your swing can also lead to poor contact on the heel of the club. You have to be completely committed to your swing and have the confidence to make an aggressive swing all the way through to a balanced finish position. When you doubt your swing or are fearing the shank, the club head will slow down through impact and the club may not release – making it far more likely that a shank will result.
- Move the ball up in your stance. The correction that you need to make could be as simple as an adjustment to your ball position. When the ball is consistently striking the heel of your club face, try moving your ball position slightly toward your left foot without making any other swing changes. This adjustment could make all the difference because it will give you a little more time to release the club prior to contacting the ball.
The problem of hitting your iron shots off the heel should be addressed right away because of the risk of hitting a shank. Make the proper corrections on the driving range so that you dont have to live in fear of the shank when you head onto the course.
Use Release to Solve Wedge Heel Impact Problem
As the ball gets closer to the green, you might think that you dont have to worry as much about hitting the sweet spot. That would be wrong. It is just as important to hit the sweet spot when you are 20 yards from the green as when you are 200 yards away. Short shots are all about controlling distance properly, and you can only do that when the ball is struck cleanly with the center of the club.
If you find that you hit a lot of your short wedge shots off the heel of the club, it is likely because you are not releasing the club fully through impact. This is a common problem that plagues plenty of amateur golfers. In an effort to not hit the ball too far, many amateurs slow down through the impact area of their chip or pitch shots – and the club head never gets released properly. When that happens, the heel of the club will lead the way through the shot, and you will never manage to get the sweet spot delivered to the back of the ball. In the best case scenario the ball will come up a little short. The worst case scenario, however, is a shanked chip shot that shoots to low and right immediately off the club.
Practicing your release on short wedge shots is the best way to find the sweet spot consistently. Try hitting very short chip shots (only a few yards) while using only your right hand. This one-handed practice drill will force you to release the club through impact because you wont have your left hand in the way to drag the club through the hitting area. Hit as many one-handed chip shots as necessary until you feel comfortable striking the ball cleanly with this drill. Once you have it down, add your left hand back onto the club and hit a few more shots. Hopefully, hitting the one handed chip shots will have taught you to allow the club to freely release through impact on your short wedge shots.
Hitting Shots off the Clubs Heel is an Issue Even with the Putter
There are two elements required to make a putt – proper speed, and the right line. Both of these can be disrupted when you make contact with the ball off the heel of the putter. Impact on the heel of the club will usually cause the putt to come up short, and the putter head also may twist on impact, causing the ball to roll off line. A clean strike precisely on the sweet spot of the putter is crucial to rolling the ball into the hole time after time.
To fine-tune your stroke with the goal of hitting the sweet spot as frequently as possible, try using the following drill.
- To start, you will need your putter, two golf tees, five golf balls, and a hole on the practice green to putt at. You should be positioned about five feet away from the target hole that you are going to use. Try to pick out a five foot putt that is as flat as possible so you don't have to worry about break in either direction.
- Prior to hitting any putts, set your putter down in the address position with the face aimed perfectly at the hole. Holding the putter in that position, reach down and place the first tee in the green off the toe of the putter. Take the other tee and place it into the ground off the heel of the putter. You will now have created a gate that is just slightly wider than the length of your putter head.
- For each putt that you hit, you will be swinging your putter through this gate made up of two tees. Don't do anything different with your stroke – just try to make as many of the putts as possible. If you hit one of the tees during your forward stroke, you will instantly know that your stroke was off line and you were going to miss the sweet spot. At first, you might be surprised at how many times you hit the tees.
- Continue with this drill until you make ten five-foot putts in a row without hitting either one of the tees with your putter head. Make this drill a regular part of your practice routine so you can engrain the ability to find the sweet spot of your putter at impact.
One of the most-valuable skills that a golfer can possess is the ability to hit the ball on the sweet spot of the club – no matter what club it happens to be. Hitting the ball off the heel of the club is a mistake that will limit your improvement potential as a golfer because your shots will never be as powerful or accurate as they could be if struck with the sweet spot. Take the time to address this problem on the driving range so you can hit your shots on the course with added confidence. Once you have removed the issue of hitting shots off the clubs heel from your game, you will be able to move on to other swing improvements in your ongoing quest to be the best player you can be.