A shanked chip shot can be so damaging to your score and can drive golfers into serious consideration of their golfing future.
The word that sends shivers down most golfer's spines is 'shanks'. A very destructive shot which can completely knock the confidence and destroy the pleasure of the game for it's unexpected victims. The shanks is a shot that has hit the heel or hosel of the golf club, causing the golf ball to hit the rounded area of the head joint. The golf ball shoots off in a number of different directions and heights, apart from at the intended target. The most common direction the golf ball travels in is in front of the golfer i.e. for a right handed golfer to the right and a left hander to the left. It is a very damaging shot and most commonly will be repeated many times in a row.
Fault - Standing too close to the golf ball can be a very common reason for why a golfer shanks the ball. If this is the case, it causes the hands to move forward towards the golf ball leaving no room to return to the same place and the club becomes forced to move away from the body and the shank/hosel become involved in contact. The more a golfer shanks the golf ball, the more tentative and cautious the golf becomes, resulting in the golfer standing closer making matters much worse. Another main reason for shanking a chip shot is that the golf club enters the impact area of the golf ball from the outside of the target line resulting in an out to in swing through impact. This can cause irregular strike patterns normally from the heel.
Fix - The aim of this drill is to help to hit the middle of the golf club much more consistently resulting in much better golf shots and more enjoyment of the game of golf. The best way to help find the middle of the golf club is to create enough room at set up so that the hands can return into the correct position helping the golfer to hit more solid golf shots out of the middle. First, when you set up to the golf ball, always place the golf club down behind the golf ball. Continue to build your stance around your golf club. Aim to set up with your hands directly below your chin and keep a good gap (about a hand's width) between the butt end of the golf club and your legs.
Check point - Rest the golf club on to your leading leg and the grip should sit about two to three inches above the knee. Be careful you do not bring your knee to the golf club.
Key point - Place a tee peg about two feet behind the ball and about one foot closer to you. Place another about two feet in front of the ball and one foot away from you.
The idea is to swing the golf club from the marker closer to you then make contact with the golf ball, then allow the golf club to swing over the other marker that is beyond the golf ball. This will encourage a more inside to outside swing path.
Help with Shanked Chip Shots
To play good golf, you have to have a good short game – it's just that simple. While golf is a complicated game in many ways, the formula for scoring well has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. You need to keep the ball in play with your full swings, and you need to be skilled in the areas of chipping and putting. If you can check all of those boxes, you will play good golf. However, a deficiency in even one of those areas can create a giant hole in your game. Golf has a way of exposing weaknesses, so you need to work hard to plug all of your holes if you are going to play your best.
One area that many amateur golfers struggle with is chipping – specifically, shanking chip shots. When your ball is close enough to the green to be able to chip, you need to take advantage of that opportunity and chip the ball within a few feet of the hole as frequently as possible. While no one gets up and down 100% of the time, chipping it close will leave you with a lot of easy par putts. Unfortunately, if you are struggling with the shanks in your chipping game, you might be having trouble even getting the ball on the green at all.
Chipping is the part of golf that is overlooked more than any other. Most players take time to practice their full swings and their putting strokes, but the chipping motion is frequently ignored. Obviously, this is a mistake. Since you are sure to need to hit at least a few chip shots during a given round, it is important that you consistently practice this skill. You will never reach a point of hitting all of the greens in regulation during each round that you play, so chipping is forever going to be a part of your golf game. Take the time now to learn how to do it right and your scores can begin to drop almost immediately.
Shanking your chip shots can be caused by either mental or physical mistakes – or both. The first step that you need to take is getting to the bottom of the problem and uncovering the root cause. Once you have a clear understanding of why you are shanking some of your chip shots, you can then move on to fixing the issue. However, if you never stop to figure out why there is a problem in the first place, your chances of getting it fixed are slim to none.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Physical Causes of Shanked Chips
When fighting the shanks with any of your clubs, you want to first confirm that your physical technique is on the right track. It is certainly possible for problems on the mental side of the game to cause the shanks, but you should first look for any physical errors that are taking place. Only when you are satisfied that your mechanics are under control should you move on to considering mental fixes.
Below are three potential causes of shanked chips that you may be able to locate in your technique. Think carefully about how you chip the ball and decide if any of these three points applies to you.
- Standing too close to the ball. This is one of those tips that almost seems too easy to actually work. If you are shanking your chip shots on a regular basis, there is a chance that you are simply standing too close to the ball. You have probably heard that you should stand close to the ball while chipping – and that is true – but overdoing it can lead to the dreaded shank. You want to keep the hosel of your wedge safely away from the ball, but standing right up next the ball at address will put you in peril of striking the hosel at impact. If you consistently feel crowded or cramped at impact when chipping, back up an inch or two to provide yourself with a little more room.
- Lack of release. Another way to lead the hosel right into the back of the ball is to fail to release the club through impact. When the club swings through impact on a chip shot, your hands should be activing releasing the club head in order to square the face and hit the shot online. However, if you are nervous or tentative when hitting the shot, that release may not happen. Without the release, the club face will stay open at impact, and the hosel will again be too close to the ball. This kind of chipping motion doesn't always result in a shank, but it will from time to time. Before every chip shot, mentally commit yourself to a full release through impact.
- Poor ball position. It can be tricky to find the perfect ball position when hitting a chip shot. Since your lies will vary so much on chip shots, you can't really use the same exact ball position each time. However, one thing you do want to avoid is placing the ball too far back in your stance. A ball position that is way back in your stance for a chip shot is a recipe to hit a shank. With the ball so far back, you won't have time to release the club correctly, and you will again run the risk of putting the hosel into the back of the ball. If you are going to play a chip from the back of your stance, it should be a pitch and run shot that is hit with a lower-lofted club. If you are chipping with a wedge, make sure the ball doesn't go much behind the middle of your stance, or you will be running the risk of shanking the shot off to the right.
Since the chipping motion is relatively simple (at least, compared to the full swing), there isn't very much that can go wrong from a technical standpoint. If you are confident that you aren't making any of the mistakes listed above, you will probably need to locate the root cause of your shanked chip shots in the list of mental game issues below.
Mental Causes of Shanked Chips
Whether in the full swing or in the short game, the shanks are just as much mental as they are physical. Once you hit a single shank, the memory of that shot can linger in your head for months – or even years – to come. It is hard to get over a shank, even for the best players in the world. Hitting a shank is a jarring, and embarrassing, experience that will leave you wishing you could hide in the nearest bunker. Of course, that isn't an option. Instead, you need to keep your head up and do your best on the next shot.
If you continue to struggle with shanks in your short game, and you are confident that your physical technique is in good shape, review the following mental game points to look for the ultimate cause of your problem.
- Lack of confidence. Far and away, this is the biggest cause of shanks in golf. It is a case of the mental game influencing the physical execution of your shots. When you lack confidence, the natural reaction is to slow the club down through impact, because you are afraid of the outcome of the shot. When that happens, the club won't release fully, and you run the risk of hitting a shank. Without confidence, even the best technique in the world won't save you. Confidence can be found on in the practice area, so be sure to spend plenty of time in between rounds working on your chipping. When you see plenty of quality shots around the practice chipping green, your confidence will naturally grow out on the course.
- Lack of focus. Even if you feel confident with your chipping motion, you can still hit poor shots due to a lack of focus on the shot at hand. Most often, this has to do with your mind still thinking about the shot you just hit. Since that shot missed the green (thus the need to chip), you may not be happy about the swing you made. If your mind continues to review the mistake you made on the approach shot, it will be unable to fully focus on the chip. It is never a good idea to hit a golf shot without full focus on the task at hand. Prior to hitting any chip shot, make sure to bring your mind into focus and commit 100% of your effort to producing a quality shot that leaves the ball close to the hole. There is nothing you can do to get back previous poor shots, so you must simply move on with the round and give it your best on the shot that is in front of you.
- Lack of a game plan. This is a problem that plagues many amateur golfers, and most of them don't even know it. When you get ready to hit any shot on the course, including chip shots, you should have a very specific plan in mind. That plan includes where you are going to land the ball, how high you are going to hit it in the air, how much spin will be on the shot, etc. The more details you include in your plan, the more successful you can expect that plan to be. If you don't bother to create a plan for your chip shots, you could be left with a very poor result – even a shank. Your mind needs specific instructions in order to focus on the task at hand. It is your job to give it those instructions in the form of a detailed plan for each shot.
Thinking correctly on the golf is extremely important. Most golfers feel like they are held back by limited physical skill, but almost every amateur golfer could get more out of their game simply by making better decisions, having better focus, or having more confidence. The game that plays out between your ears is highly influential in the numbers that are written on your scorecard. While shanking your chip shots might seem like a physical problem, it can easily be rooted in one of the mental game issues listed above.
A Shank-Free Practice Session
As mentioned earlier, the confidence that you need to have in order to chip successfully can be found on in the short game practice area. If you are hoping to find your confidence once you get out onto the course, you are in for a big disappointment. Golfers who walk to the first tee without confidence in hand are rarely going to discover it after they have started.
To build all the confidence you will need to make it through a round without shanking a chip shot, quality practice time is going to be required. You don't have to practice for hours on end, but you do need to have a good plan in place for the time you do spend working on your chipping. Even a session of 10-15 minutes can be greatly beneficial to your game.
Following is a step-by-step practice chipping routine for you to follow. The whole routine should only take a few minutes, but you can repeat it as many times as you would like.
- Find a short game practice area at one of your local golf courses. Some facilities will charge a small fee for the use of their short game area, while others will offer it free of charge. Be sure to treat the practice area with respect and always replace divots, rake bunkers, etc.
- For this practice routine, you are going to use ten golf balls. Driving range balls will work, but it would be even better to use the same golf balls that you use out on the course.
- Locate a flat spot around the green. You want to hit these shots from short grass, so find a section of fairway-length turf that will allow you to easily chip the ball onto the green. Since the focus is going to be on your technique, you don't want to set yourself up with a difficult chip at this point. There will always be time later to work on more difficult chip shots, if you so choose.
- Pick out a hole on the green that you will use for your target. The hole should only be 10-20 yards from where you are standing, and there should be no big slopes between you and the target.
- Place your first ball on the ground and get ready to hit a shot. Go through your regular pre-shot routine as you would on the course. Pick a specific landing spot for the chip shot, and visualize the ball bouncing and rolling right up next to the hole.
- As you stand over the ball in your address position, take your left hand off of the club – you are going to hit this first chip with only your right hand. Why? Your right hand controls the release of the club head through impact, and a failure to release is one of the leading causes of the shanks. So, take your left hand off the club and put it in your pocket (or behind your back).
- With only your right hand remaining on the grip, go ahead and hit the chip shot. Focus on your rhythm during the chipping motion. If you rush the stroke, you will lose control of the club head and a poor shot will result. Use your shoulders to turn the club back and through, while your right hand enables a full release at impact.
- For your second chip, put your left hand back on the club and chip the ball as you would normally. However, keep in mind the feeling that you had when hitting the one handed chip. Even though you have put your left hand back on the club, you still want to feel the right hand releasing the club head through impact.
- For the eight remaining balls, alternate between hitting chips with just your right hand, and with both hands. At the end of the drill, you will have hit five shots each way, giving you a good chance to learn the proper release while also practicing your normal chipping motion.
- Hopefully, at the end of 10 basic chip shots (five one-handed, and five two-handed), you will have hit a total of zero shanks. A few sets of ten chip shots without any sight of a shank will do wonders to build your confidence.
After you have gone through the basic drill a few times, you can add variables to the equation by changing clubs, giving yourself a difficult lie, and more. Never be afraid to experiment with unique shots around the chipping green, because you are likely to find all kinds of tough positions when you get out on the course. Golf is a game that doesn't often give you a flat lie – more often than not, you have to adjust your technique to match the ground beneath your feet. Practice as many challenging chip shots as you can the dreaded shank will remain at bay even from the toughest of lies.
Other Tips to Avoid the Shank
The content above should cover just about everything you need to know regarding hitting shank-free chip shots. However, there are a few other miscellaneous points that need to be mentioned. Read through the quick list below to add to your knowledge base on how to steer clear of the shanks in your short game.
- Use less loft. You are more likely to hit a shanked chip shot with a lob wedge or sand wedge than you are with an eight or nine iron. If the shanks are giving you trouble in the short game, try to use less loft around the greens whenever possible. This isn't a permanent solution, as you will eventually want to get back to using your lofted clubs with confidence. With that said, if you are in the middle of a round and the shanks are popping up, turn to lower loft to get through the rest of the day.
- Don't try to do too much. When you draw a particularly nasty lie around the green, play a safe shot that will get you back onto short grass as quickly as possible. Trying to hit a miracle shot from a lie in the deep rough is just asking for trouble – and that trouble might come in the form of a shank.
- Keep your eyes on the ball. One of the oldest golf tips in the book is actually very important when it comes to hitting your chip shots solidly. If you allow your eyes to look up early to see where the ball is going, you could move your entire body as a result – which means the hosel will be getting closer to the ball. Keep your eyes on the ball throughout the chipping motion, and only look up once you have felt solid contact on the club face.
Playing golf with the shanks isn't very much fun. Consistent shanks do serious damage to your scorecard, and they can affect your overall enjoyment of the game as well. Golf is supposed to be fun, but it isn't a whole lot of fun to chase your ball off to the right time and time again. Fortunately, shanks in the chipping game can be conquered with some practice and a good game plan. Use the information provided above to correct both the physical and mental mistakes that may be causing your poor chipping performance. With the ball contacting the center of the club face once again, you can turn your attention from avoiding shanks to getting the ball as close to the hole as possible – which is the whole point in the first place.