The shanked shot is very destructive shot and can really knock the confidence of the victim.
A shanked shot is a shot that strikes the heel of the golf club causing the golf ball to shoot sharply to the right of the target (For a right handed golfer)
The shanked shot can really cause many problems not just technically but also mentally. The shanked shot can often feel like an illness or disease that needs medication to cure the horrid shot.
If you are unsure where you are striking to golf ball from, just check the marks on the clubface. Do keep the club clean and if you start striking it wayward have a look at the ball mark on the golf club.
Fault - Standing too close to the golf ball can be a very common fault to explain 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 shanks/hosel becomes involved in the 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.
Fix - The aim of this drill is to help 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 again is to create enough room at set up so that the hands can return to the correct position, helping the golfer to hit more solid golf shots out of the middle. Firstly, 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.
Top practice drill - set up to the golf ball in your improved distance away position and place another golf ball on the outside of the original golf ball so that there is about a one and a half inch gap between the two golf balls. The task would be to strike the original golf ball without making contact with the second golf ball. This may appear easy when you set up to the golf ball but you may soon notice it is slightly harder.
Practice this drill until you are confident you can miss the second golf ball every time then continue to recreate this feeling when you only have the original ball there.
How Do I Stop Shanking the Golf Ball?
The shank is the single most feared shot in golf. Even players who struggle with a hook or a slice would much rather take those outcomes than to see a shank rocket off the heel of their club. Not only is a shank damaging to your scorecard – it is damaging to your frame of mind as well. You will likely feel embarrassed after shanking a shot, and you may not even be able to find the golf ball once it finally comes to rest. While you don't need to be a great golfer to enjoy this wonderful game, it is pretty hard to have fun on the course while shanking the ball on a regular basis. If the shank has made its way into your game, getting rid of it should be objective number one.
For those who are lucky enough not to know from experience, a shank is a shot that strikes the hosel of the golf club (the point where the shaft and club head connect) and shoots immediately to the right (for a right handed golfer). Generally, a shanked shot barely gets off the ground, but it is possible to hit a shank up into the air depending on the club you are using and the lie of the ball. When you hit a shank, it will send a shock through your system as the impact with the ball will feel much different (and much worse) than it does when you successfully strike the ball with the center of the face. Shanks are relatively common among amateur golfers, but hardly ever seen among professionals.
One of the many reasons you should work hard to remove the shank from your game is the combination of mental and physical damage it can do to your game. The physical damage is obvious – you will have to go chase your ball down to likely play it from a bad spot, if you can even find it at all. In most cases, a single shank will add at least two shots to your score. However, the mental damage might be even worse. For the rest of the round, and maybe even future rounds to come, you will have that shank in the back of your mind. It is difficult to make an aggressive downswing when you are concerned about the possibility of producing another shank. Once those doubts start to creep in, they can be nearly impossible to remove from your mind. Many golfers have spent months or even years trying to repair the mental damage caused by just a few shanks.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
A Common Misconception
One of the biggest misconceptions in the entire golf world has to do with the shank. When the average golfer shanks one out to the right of their target, they think one thing – 'I must have it the ball off the toe of the club'. On the surface, it makes sense. After all, if the ball is shooting off to the right, wouldn't you think that it must have come off the toe? While it is technically possible to shank one off the toe, that would be a rare exception. In almost every case, a shank is caused by making contact with the ball on the hosel of the club.
The angle of the hosel on your irons makes it possible to hit a shank that travels out to the right even though you are making contact in off the heel of the club. This kind of a shank won't happen with a driver or fairway wood, simply because of the different style hosel that is used on those clubs. If you look carefully at the head of your iron after a shank, you will likely be able to see a mark on the hosel where the ball made contact with the club.
It is important to understand that you are shanking the ball off the hosel and not off the toe, because the difference in those two mistakes will totally change how you go about fixing the problem. If you were actually hitting the ball off the toe, you would have to work on getting the club head farther out away from your body at impact. However, that is likely not the case, so trying to adjust in that way will only worsen your shank. Instead, since you are almost certainly hitting the ball off the heel, you need to find a way to bring the club head back a little closer to your body at impact. Fortunately, you don't need to make a huge adjustment, as the sweet spot on the face of your iron is only a couple inches away from the hosel.
The previous point is an important one to keep in mind as you go forward with trying to fix the shanks. Remember that you probably aren't that far away from a good swing – just by changing your downswing path a couple of inches, you could go from hitting ugly shanks to hitting beautiful shots. In fact, hitting a shank is a sign that you are closer to making a good swing than if you were hitting a slice. Most people who slice the ball need major swing changes in order to get on track. With the shank, it is typically just a minor adjustment that is needed to start producing better shots.
Solving any problem requires knowledge, and that is certainly true in golf. Simply knowing what is creating your shank in the first place is a huge step in the right direction. Now that you know the ball is almost certainly coming off of the hosel of your club – and not the toe – you can get to work on fixing the mechanics that are leading to this costly error.
Every golf swing is unique. Even if you have tried to pattern your swing on the swing of your favorite professional, you can be sure there are elements within your technique that are uniquely your own. Therefore, it is difficult to make sweeping statements when it comes to golf instruction, since there are so many variables to consider. What is good advice for one golfer might be bad advice for another, and vice versa. For this reason, you always need to make sure that any golf advice you take is specifically applicable to your golf swing.
Even with that said, there are some generalizations that can be made when it comes to the shanks. The majority of golfers who struggle with the shanks are going to find that these shots are caused by one of a short list of potential mistakes. One by one, you can work your way through this list of mistakes until you find the one that is leading you to shank the ball on a regular basis. Correcting the shank is a trial-and-error process that you need to work through on the driving range. Simply try one fix and check your results. If you are still shanking the ball, move on to the next fix and repeat the process. Eventually, you should land on the underlying issue and you will have successfully gotten over this frustrating problem.
Below is a list of mistakes that could potentially be leading to your shanks. Consider each one individually until the cause of your shanks has been discovered.
- Standing too close to the ball. You should always start with the simplest of solutions when trying to fix your golf swing, so this is a great starting point for trying to correct your shank. If you stand too close to the golf ball at address, you simply won't have enough room to swing your hands and the club down through the hitting area. As you approach impact, your hands will be forced out away from your body, and the hosel will be pushed dangerously close to the ball. While this error might not cause a shank each and every time, you will be living on the edge. Obviously, the correction that needs to be made in this case is backing up slightly at address. Trying giving yourself between one and two inches more room between your feet and the ball – that should be enough to enable your hands to make a successfully swing through the impact area.
- Losing your balance in the downswing. Another way to get your body too close to the ball is by losing your balance during the downswing. This is a problem that affects many amateur golfers, and it usually starts from a poor address position. If you don't flex your knees enough at address, you will run the risk of leaning out over the ball early in the downswing. When that happens, your arms and hands will be taken closer to the ball, and you will again be risking a shank. Sit down into your stance at address by adding flex to your knees and you should find it much easier to maintain balance throughout the swing.
- No release through impact. If you 'hold on' to the club through impact – meaning you don't let the face of the club release – you will be forcing the hosel directly into the back of the ball. There should be a release at the bottom of your swing where your hands turn over and the club face squares up to the target line. This release will happy automatically for most golfers, but you have to let it happen. If you are trying to carefully control the club through the hitting area, you might wind up restricting the ability of the club face to release. To work on solving this problem, take some practice swings with only your right hand on the club (without hitting balls). It is easy to release the club correctly when only holding on with one hand, so rehearse the one-handed swing a few times before hitting shots with two hands back on the club. Hopefully you will learn the feel of the correct release with one hand so you can replicate it while using two hands.
- Lateral slide to the left. This mistake is similar to the previous point in that it has to do with an insufficient release of the club. However, in this case, it is not your hands that are to blame, but rather your lower body. If you slide to the left (toward the target) with your lower body in the downswing, you will make it difficult to release the club correctly through the hitting zone. Again, just as before, that limited release will bring the shank into play. Rather than sliding left in your downswing, work on rotating with your lower body so that you end up in a balance position on top of a straight left leg at the finish position. Not only will improving your lower body rotation help you avoid the shank, it should also help you find more power in your swing.
There is a good chance that you will be able to find the root cause of your shanks within one of the four points above. Starting at the top of the list, work through these points one by one on the driving range until you are confident that the shank is a problem of the past.
Fixing Your Mind
The section above should give you plenty of ideas on how to fix your slice from a physical perspective. To make the physical improvements necessary to get rid of the slice, you simply need to head to the driving range and get to work. There are no shortcuts in golf when it comes to getting better – you need to do the work in order to see the results.
However, even after you put in the physical effort to fix the problem, there will still be mental scars to deal with. Unfortunately, for most players, it is the mental damage that is significantly harder to fix. If you can't get the shank out of your head, it doesn't really matter what you change physically because you will never be able to play up to your potential. Playing good golf requires a clear mind that is full of confidence. Thinking about the shanks while you are on the course is never going to fill you with confidence, so it is crucial that you find a way to get over that mental hurdle.
Below are a few tips for restoring the mental side of your game after you have dealt with the shanks for a period of time. The process of fixing your mental game may take some time, but it will be worth it in the end.
- Take a break. This might seem like a passive approach to fixing your problems, but sometimes it is best to simply put the clubs down and do something else for a while. This is especially helpful for people who golf several times per week, as it can be difficult to clear your head of past mistakes when you are always at the course. You don't have to take a long break – even just a week or two could do wonders for your mental approach to the game. Assuming you have already fixed the physical problems that were leading to the shanks, you now may just need a little time to forget about the frustration and embarrassment that came along with them.
- Talk about the issue with other golfers. Many golfers are so embarrassed about the shanks that they don't even want to say the word 'shank' out loud, let alone tell anyone that they have been fighting this issue. That approach is a mistake, as it allows the problem to become larger than it is inside your own head. Instead, talk about the shanks with other players and you will probably find that many golfers have had this problem from time to time. Not only will you get some friendly encouragement, you might even get a few tips along the way on how others got over the shanks.
- Celebrate your good shots. When you get back out on the course, congratulate yourself each time you hit a good shot. Even if you were worried about hitting a shank before making the swing, be sure to give yourself a mental 'pat on the back' if you come through and hit a good shot. While one good swing isn't going to totally restore your confidence, it will be a small step in the right direction. Over time, those small steps will add up and you will have forgotten all about your shank problems of the past.
- Play under pressure. Once the physical cause of your shanks has been corrected, the best thing you can do is put yourself to the test by playing in a tournament at your club or some other event. This is the opposite of running and hiding from the problem. Why does this work? Simple – success when you are feeling nervous on the course is the best way to build confidence in a hurry. If you walk out onto the first hole and hit a couple of good shots even while nervous, you will suddenly realize that you are capable of more than you thought on the golf course.
Playing good golf is just as much mental as it is physical. Sure, you need to have good fundamentals in place in order to hit good shots, but your mind has to be in the right place as well. The shanks can quickly take your mind and turn it upside down from a golf perspective – hopefully the tips above can help you get your thinking back on the right track.
Thinking Rationally About the Shanks
There is one tricky thing about fixing the shanks that you need to remember – they could always come back. Even if you make all the right adjustments to your swing technique, you will never be 'shank proof'. In fact, not even the best golfers in the world are shank proof, and you will see one or two of these ugly shots pop up on the PGA Tour from time to time. This isn't mentioned to shake your confidence, rather it is highlighted so you can keep a shank in perspective if it happens to pop up in your game.
Usually it happens like this – a player who has struggled with the shanks works hard on the range and successfully eliminates the shank from his or her game. After a period of time of shank-free golf goes by, an ugly shank to the right will pop up out of nowhere. Instead of just treating it as an isolated mistake, which it probably is, the player overreacts and allows that one bad swing to damage his or her confidence. Suddenly, they have thrown their entire golf game into disarray because of a single bad shot.
Don't let this happen to you. It is possible to hit a shank for a variety of reasons, and none of those reasons mean that you have a serious problem in your swing. If you start to hit shanks on a regular basis, then yes, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. However, if you just hit one or two from time to time, there isn't really anything to worry about. It truly can happen to anyone, so take a rational approach and avoid overreacting if you happen to hit a single shank within a round of otherwise good shots.
The shanks are no fun, that much is certain. However, they don't have to be long-lasting problem in your golf game, as long as you are willing to put in some work to correct the underlying issues. Use the content above to identify the problem in your swing that is causing the shanks, and get it fixed as quickly as possible. Once your physical and mental game have both been rehabilitated successfully, you should be able to go back to playing your game as usual.