shank shot intro 1

A slice is usually manageable. Fat shots typically cost you one stroke at a time. Topped shots are more embarrassing than damaging.

But shanks… Shanks are a far nastier creature. Golf's version of a terminal illness, the shanks wrap the consequences of every other bad shot into one vile mutation.

To understand a shank, first you must understand the golf club.

The joint where the shaft connects with the clubhead is called the hosel or neck. On an iron, this rounded piece extends to the bottom of the club, and when the ball is pinched between the heel and hosel, the result is a shot which rockets off to the right (for a right-hander) – sometimes, almost directly perpendicular to the target line.

(On most drivers, fairway woods and hybrids, the shaft enters at the top of the clubhead, so there's no extended hosel. Thus, these clubs are practically shank-proof.)

shank shot intro 2

A shank happens when the club is pushed outward during the downswing, aligning the heel and hosel with the ball. In extreme cases, the golfer may swing all the way across the ball, striking it with the back of the club's neck and sending it to the left.

A shank typically sounds and feels quite harsh, sometimes causing an unpleasant vibration in the hands. As any golfer who's ever suffered a bout of the shanks will tell you, there's nothing in golf worse than the fear of hitting one. Well, except actually hitting one.

Here's the good news: Like any other golf malady, the shanks are not only treatable, they can be permanently cured. This series of tips will walk you through drills that will rid you of this dread disease.

Shank Golf Shot Drills

Shank Golf Shot Drills

In general, golfers love to talk. Even if you get paired up on the first tee with a group of strangers you have never met in your life, there is a good chance you will all be friends by the 18th hole. Golf has a way of bringing people together, which is one of the best traits of this game. While it is competitive and can certainly be challenging, it is also a social event. Spend four hours with someone on a golf course and you will get to know them like never before.

However, while most golfers do love to talk, there is one topic about which they have very little to say – the shank. The average golfer hates to talk about the shanks, for fear that this common swing problem will find its way into his or her game. There is nothing fun about having the shanks. In fact, some golfers have even quit the game because of their inability to solve this malady. If you are currently fighting the shanks in your own game, you would likely pay almost any amount of money to make them go away.

In this article, we are going to attempt to provide the help you need to solve this problem. While there are a variety of potential causes for the shanks, the problem can usually be solved with the right practice drills and plenty of effort. It probably won't be easy to get rid of your shanks, but it certainly will be worth it when you are able to strike the ball on the sweet spot once again.

The first thing you need to do if you are going to successfully get over your problem with the shanks is to take the emotion out of the process. This is going to be easier said than done. If you are filled with frustration while working on the problem, you won't have the patience necessary to make any real progress. Patience is something you are going to need to have in full supply when you get started, so do what you can to take your emotions out of this situation.

To do that successfully, you might need to take a short break from the game of golf. For example, if you have recently played a round where you hit several shanks, think about putting your clubs down for a week or so. By doing something else with your time, you can clear your head and forget about the frustrating feeling of hitting shanks. Then, when you head out to the driving range to work on it, you will be starting from a blank slate. You won't be angry before you even get started, and you will be more likely to see the process through to a successful conclusion.

All of the instruction offered below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Understanding the Shanks

Understanding the Shanks

You always have to understand a problem before you can actually fix it. Unfortunately, many golfers fail to understand how the shanks work, which is part of the reason why so many amateur golfers continue to shank the ball round after round. Before we offer up some ideas on how you can correct your shanks, we first need to make sure you clearly understand what is going on with this phenomenon.

When you shank the golf ball as a right-handed golfer, the ball shoots quickly off to the right of the target. It usually doesn't get more than a foot or so off the ground, and it might only move a few yards forward before finding some nasty place to come to rest. Depending on where your playing partners happen to be standing while you are hitting your shot, it is possible that a shank could put them in danger. To be safe, always ask your playing partners to stand safely behind you if you know that a shank is a possibility on a given shot.

So, since the ball shoots quickly to the right when you hit a shank, you must be making contact on the very end of the club, right? No – not at all. This is an extremely common misconception, but rest assured you are not shanking the ball off the toe. While this might be technically possible, it would be an extremely rare sight. Rather, your shanked shots are almost certainly coming off the hosel, which is where the shaft connects to the club head. There is an angle in the hosel as it transitions down into the club head, and that angled portion can send the ball off to the right on a miss-hit shot. To avoid the shanks, you need to steer clear of the hosel at impact – it really is that simple.

Have you ever wondered why you never shank the ball with your driver or other woods, even when you are fighting the shanks with your irons? It has to do with the design of your clubs. Woods don't really have a hosel since the shaft goes right into the clubhead – meaning there is almost no way to hit a shank. Sure, you can hit plenty of bad shots with your woods if you make a poor swing, but you don't really need to worry about shanking the ball.

Now that you understand what is happening when you hit a shank, you can move on to solving this problem once and for all. Knowing that the ball is coming off the hosel when this happens, you are going to need to move the sweet spot of the club a couple inches closer to your body at impact. This is where much of the frustration lies when it comes to this problem – you are only a couple of inches away from hitting a solid shot. The hosel isn't particularly far from the sweet spot, so it might be only a minor adjustment that is required to get your game back on track.

Knowing When You Have a Problem

Knowing When You Have a Problem

If you ask around, you will have trouble finding a golfer who hasn't hit at least one or two shanks in his or her time on the course. Even a player with a quality swing can hit a shank – in fact, you will occasionally see a shank on the professional tours. So how do you know when you just made a random bad swing, and when you have a problem? It is important to differentiate the two so you can decide when the time is right to make changes in your game.

The obvious place to start is when you notice a pattern of shanks popping up in your game. Rather than just one or two shanks from time to time over the course of a few rounds, you may be hitting multiple shanks in the same round. When this problem goes from occasional embarrassing mistake to consistent issue, it will be time to take action. Also, if you find that you are consistently swinging in fear of hitting a shank, the problem has reached an elevated level. You shouldn't have to play this game while being afraid of a shank coming up on your next shot – not only is it hard to play that way, it isn't very much fun either.

Another warning sign that your problem with the shanks is getting out of control is when they seem to pop up in pressure situations. If you are hitting shanks on key holes during the round, or on key shots when you need to make good contact to hit the ball over a hazard, you need to take action right away. You need to be able to come up with your best golf when the pressure is on, so doing the opposite is naturally cause for concern. You won't ever be able to reach your scoring goals if a pressure shot causes you to hit a shank.

Overall, you should be able to judge pretty easily for yourself when you are having trouble with the shanks. If it seems like the shanks are getting in the way of your game as a whole, think about heading to the range for a practice session. Timing is important when it comes to this issue, as waiting any longer than necessary to address the problem is only going to make it harder to solve. Just like anything else, the swing that is producing a shank is going to become more and more ingrained the more it is used. It is harder to break any habit after it is allowed to linger for weeks, months, or years. Don't let yourself get to that point. Take quick action once you know there is a problem and you should be able to get back on track relatively quickly.

Three Helpful Drills

Three Helpful Drills

At this point, we are going to get down to the business of working on some drills which may be able to help you play shank-free golf. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that any one golf drill is going to work for you, so it will be necessary to go through some trial and error out on the course. Go into the process with an open mind, and give each drill an honest effort before moving onto the next. Hopefully, when the work has been done, the shanks will be the farthest thing from your mind.

  • Drop the right elbow. One of the main reasons golfers hit shanks is because they allow the club to move up and away from their body at the top of the swing. Instead of dropping the club 'into the slot' as they should, many players push the club up and away. The result is a swing which cuts across the ball dramatically at impact – and the hosel passes dangerously close to the ball at impact. Inevitably, some of your shots are going to turn into shanks when you swing this way. To correct this mistake, work on dropping your right elbow immediately upon the start of the downswing. For this drill, you are simply going to swing up to the top of your backswing, pause for a moment, and then drop your right elbow down to your side. From there, move your hands back up to the top and do it again. You are going to repeat this process until you have gone back and forth three times. After three repetitions of dropping your elbow in to your side, you will go ahead and finish off the swing. Don't hit any balls while doing this drill – simply make the swings and work on the feeling of swinging down on the inside. After you have spent a few minutes on this drill, go ahead and hit some normal shots. Hopefully, you will feel a powerful and controlled strike as a result of swinging down from an inside path. Not only should you be safely rid of the slice when you make this change, but you should also hit the ball farther as well.
  • Fix your weight shift. The reverse pivot is a common problem in the game of golf, and it is often linked to the shanks. What is a reverse pivot? As the name would indicate, it is a swing where your weight moves toward the target in the backswing and then away from the target in the downswing. This is a serious problem, and it is hard to hit good shots with this kind of action. As was the case with the point above, this is another mistake which is going to lead to an outside-in swing – and potentially a shank as the club slides across the ball at impact. To work on correcting your errant weight shift, start by finding a comfortable and balanced position at address. From there, work on making backswings only with no forward swing involved. Swing all the way to the top of your backswing, stop and check on your balance. How do you feel? Are you nicely centered over the ball? Are you ready to swing down aggressively? You shouldn't be leaning toward the target at the top of the swing, but you shouldn't be leaning away from the target either. A good backswing will leave you nicely balanced at the top so you can swing aggressively into the ball without feeling like you are going to fall over. After you have rehearsed your backswing balance a few times, go ahead and hit some shots while remembering to stay away from any reverse pivot move. If you can successfully get rid of the reverse pivot, your shanks may disappear. Also, your ball flight will improve as your swing path will not be as steep as it was previously.
  • Get out of your own head. The shanks are often as mental as they are physical. If you are shanking the golf ball consistently, you will probably begin to swing more cautiously as a way of avoiding the shank. Unfortunately, that cautious swing is likely to lead to more shanks – and the cycle will continue from there. To get out of this nasty cycle of bad golf, you need to change your way of thinking. Instead of focusing on the negative idea of shanking the golf ball, you need to have something positive in your mind. So, during your practice session, pick out specific targets and try to hit creative shots to those targets. For instance, you might decide that you are going to hit your next shot at the 150-yard marker. However, instead of hitting a relatively straight shot, you are going to hit a huge hook which sweeps into the target from the side. Or, you may try to hit a shot which travels only a few feet off the ground the entire way. Whatever you do, make sure it is well outside of your usual shot pattern. What is the point of this drill? Simple – we are trying to get your mind off of the possibility of hitting a shank. You will be concentrating so hard on trying to produce this unique shot that you may forget all about your shank problems. Spend an entire practice session hitting crazy shots and you might find that there isn't a single shank among the group – and you may just have a lot of fun in the process.

Most likely, the problem of shanking the golf ball isn't going to disappear all on its own. Rather than hiding from the problem and trying to pretend that it doesn't exist, tackle it head on and do your best to come out on the right side of the battle.

A New Attitude

A New Attitude

One of the hardest parts about dealing with the shanks is getting over the mental 'scars' that may be left behind after you have hit a few shanks on the course. Even if you have done your work on the range to correct the physical mistakes, you might still have fears in the back of your mind that this problem will pop up once again. If that is the case, you are going to need to pay careful attention to the way you are thinking on the course in the next few rounds you play.

For starters, you need to accept the fact that shanks are a part of the game of golf. While they feel terrible at the time, there is nothing that needs to be embarrassing or shameful about hitting a shank. The best players in the world have all hit a shank or two from time to time. To be sure, anyone you happen to be playing with has been there before – even if they are acting like they haven't. Hitting a shank doesn't mean you are a terrible golfer. It simply means you made a bad swing, and you need to make a better swing next time. Golf is a hard game, so there is no time to feel sorry for yourself or spend time beating yourself up over past mistakes. Get over it, move on, and look forward to hitting a great shot with your next attempt.

Another step you can take to move on from the shanks is to trust in the shot you select each time you stand over the ball. Indecision will make it far more likely that the shanks are going to pop up, so never doubt yourself before preparing to hit a shot. Once you decide which club you are going to use, and what you are going to use for a target, believe in that choice and execute the shot to the best of your ability. Doubt is only going to make this game harder, and golf certainly doesn't need to be made any harder than it is to begin with.

Finally, remember to focus on having fun while you are on the course. As an amateur golfer, you don't need to sweat the results of every single shot you hit. Instead, you should be committed to having fun while giving yourself a chance to shoot a good score. Sure, you would like to play well, but this is a recreational activity and it should be enjoyable above all else. By placing the emphasis on fun rather than performance, you just might find that your performance winds up being dramatically improved – and your shanks may be long gone as well.

The shanks are a frustrating part of golf. They happen to everyone at some point, as the hosel is always lurking just a couple of inches away from the sweet spot on your irons. We hope the content above will help you get over your case of the shanks as soon as possible. With the shanks in your rear view mirror, you can move on to working on other pieces of the golf puzzle which will allow you to unlock lower scores. Now that you are living a shank-free life, the best golf of your career may be soon to follow. Good luck!