Are you familiar with the dreaded “s” word in golf?
While you may say a four-letter word beginning with “s” when hitting one of these shots, it’s this five-letter word that puts the shivers into the heart of a golfer. I’m talking about the shank shot of course.
Throughout golf history, the dreaded shank has snuck up on some of the game’s finest (as the Tigers and Rorys of the world can attest). Every golfer will suffer from these bad shots once in a while, but the key is making sure that a shanked shot doesn’t define your game.
Why should a golfer avoid a shank shot? Well, to start, it’s an embarrassing mishit. It is often followed by another emotion: humiliation (this depends on which friends are with you or how many people are watching). And let’s face it — most of us care about our image on the course.
A shank can erode your golf swing confidence and make it difficult to bounce back during your round (speaking from experience here).
The good news is that you can overcome these mishits by learning why shank shots happen in the first place.
I’m going to pass along some tips for how to fix a shank so you can take your game to the next level.
A golf shank: What is it?
Before we put an end to this mishit on the golf course, let’s explain what a shank really is. A shank occurs when the golf ball hits the hosel of the golf club.
This is the cylindrical portion that connects the shaft with the clubhead. When a shank happens, the ball almost misses the clubface entirely. It often shoots to the right at about a 45 degree angle (for a right handed golfer) and travels a much shorter distance than what you were hoping for.
It’s worth noting however, a shank shot can actually go straight, or even in some rare cases, shoot toward a golfer’s lead leg. Everything depends on where the golf ball hits on the hosel.
Of all the bad shots on the golf course, the shank is one of the worst. It’s so bad that some golfers believe just mentioning the “s” word on the course can bring about bad luck on other players. Others believe you can catch a case of the shanks, sort of like a virus.
Unfortunately, most players never see a shank shot coming. You could be playing an amazing round of golf only to be met with one of these shots out of the blue. The slang for this shot is a hosel rocket, by the way, so if you hear that expression, you’ll know what it means.
Again, this happens to everyone. Keep reading to learn how to avoid hitting wedges poorly.
What causes a shank shot in golf?
To correct these misfire shots, you need to understand how a shank shot originates. In general, a shank occurs because the clubface is closed. Obviously, a closed club head ruins any hopes of hitting the club’s sweet spot.
Additional Reading: Check out this great resource to learn about other mishits like thin shots or a fat shot.
One symptom of a shank swing would be a longer narrow divot in your swing path, since the toe of the club digs into the ground. The main reason is that the club is shut on impact when it should be open.
Another symptom of a shank is a ball not traveling as far as it should. Try to strike the ball with a closed face (or the hosel) on purpose and you’ll see how difficult it is to strike with any significant force.
Some golfers mistakenly believe a shank is caused by a club’s open face. Therefore, they try to close their club even more which only results in more shanks.
Others believe a shank is caused by standing too close to the ball, so they move further away. This adjustment can lead to golfers putting too much weight on their toes. If your weight distribution is off, this throws off your balance mid-swing and you end up leaning or falling forward during your swing. Not good.
Thankfully, with a good practice swing regimen and some simple adjustments, you can fix these issues and limit the risk of future shank shots.
How to Stop the Shanks in Golf
Practice your golf shot. It’s not magic folks! In order to improve at a somewhat difficult sport, you may need to take some time to perfect your game.
Plan some time at a driving range or local par 3 course (we can help you find one). Focus mostly on practicing with your lofty clubs (pitching wedge, lob wedge, etc.) because those clubs have a hosel that’s more exposed. If you can hit these clubs without shanking, it’s much less likely that you’ll shank with your other clubs.
Tip #1 for Eliminating the Shanks – Set Yourself Up for a Good Golf Shot
Start by lining up your club face right behind the ball. Do this BEFORE setting up your feet/stance. Many golfers set their feet first, but they are too close or too far from the ball and try using their arms to make up the distance.
Once you have the ball centered behind the face of the club, get your body lined up properly. The butt end of your club should be right below your chin with your harms hanging straight down. Rick Shiels illustrates this in the video below.
Tip #2 for Eliminating the Shanks – Figure Out Where You’re Hitting the Ball
Once you’ve made the proper adjustments to your setup/stance, you need to learn where you are striking the ball.
It’s not the coolest purchase you’ll ever make, but it’s worth picking up some golf impact labels to see what’s happening with each iron shot. These labels can help you diagnose where you commonly mishit and how likely you are to fall victim to the golf shank.
In the video above, Rick suggests using athlete’s foot spray on your club face to accomplish the same purpose.
Tip #3 for Eliminating the Shanks – Try a Two Ball Practice Routine
There are several variations of this, but the simplest is to place two balls next to each other (see image). You’ll swing the hit the ball closest to you without disturbing the outside ball. If your club makes contact with the outside ball, that means you’re more likely to hit the hosel with the inside ball, which is what leads to a shank.
Keep practicing this swing until you’re hitting the inside ball cleanly and avoiding the outside ball altogether. See the video below for proper setup.
Final Thoughts on the Shanks
Don’t overreact to a shank shot. Golf is both mental and physical, so it’s important to:
- Remain calm
- Visualize a better shot
- Set up your stance carefully
- Keep your weight balanced
And practice! Once you learn how to stop the shanks in your game, you can spend your spare time watching your friends unravel.