Every golfer has hit a shank and tasted the bitter cocktail of anger, frustration, embarrassment, confusion, and sadness. In other words, hitting a shank is not a good feeling. Don’t worry, once you understand what exactly a shank is, what causes a shank, and how to fix the shanks, it’s a feeling you never have to taste again.
Simply put, a shank in golf is when you hit the shank of the club, also known as the hosel or neck of the club, where the club head meets the shaft. The result is usually a low rocket that flies sharply to the right (for a right-handed golfer).
Since the hosel of the club is rounded and not designed to produce high ball speeds or launch, shanks don’t travel very far at all. The bad news is that they are usually so far offline, often more than 45 degrees, that they almost always end up in some sort of treacherous lie, adding insult to injury.
Here’s a great look at a textbook slow motion golf shank from renowned golf instructor Andrew Rice, with some TrackMan data that illustrates the result. Even in the frame before impact you can see this swing is doomed. The hosel is leading through impact and headed directly for the ball.
The next frame provides a beautiful look at what’s happening between the club and ball during our most frustrating moments on the golf course. The ball appears to be completely inside the grooves of the club, with the neck of the club delivering the strike.
It’s interesting to notice how immediately after impact on a shank, the club face closes quickly. The TrackMan data to the right shows just how far offline a shank is likely to travel.
So many emotions rush through your body the moment you hit a shank. Often, it results in an audible “Why?!” Well, there are a few moves that can cause a shank, the most common cause of a shank in golf is dragging the handle through impact, which when combined with inadequate lower-body rotation, leaves the club exposed to a shank.
A shank can also be caused by a subtle thrust of the hips towards the ball during the downswing, which shifts the path of the club and puts the ball squarely in the path of the hosel. No matter what is causing your shanks, here are some fixes that will help you.
The cure to the shank begins at the top of your backswing, as you transition into your downswing. It’s time to ditch the shank-causing feeling of pulling the heel of the club down through impact. Here are a few feels to work on that will rid you of the shanks. Each feel is aimed at squaring the club face. Try each one individually until you find the feel that works best for you.
Concentrate on tucking your lead elbow in, which will square your lead hand, and in turn, square the club face.
You can see exactly how this feel eliminates a shank from your own living room. Grab a club and slowly take it back until your lead arm is parallel to the ground. Keeping your lead elbow extended, tuck it into your body about halfway between your belly button and hip. Notice how your hand and club face naturally square up and the toe of the club rotates.
Once you have a feel for this move, make some full practice swings in the back yard and take it to the driving range, then the golf course. No more leading with the hosel. Not only will you eliminate the shanks but you’ll probably be striking it as pure as ever.
If you want to fix the shanks, you’ve got to hit the ball with a square club face instead of pulling the hosel through the hitting zone. The best way to make sure your club face is square is to make sure your lead hand is square to the target. This makes sense given that the club is in your hand.
If you’re hitting shanks, chances are good that you flip your wrist open at some point during your takeaway, and leave it there throughout your downswing. This not only results in an open club face, but can cause you the lead with the hosel.
To fix this, concentrate on keeping your lead wrist square to your target. Strap on a golf glove and again take the club back until your lead arm is parallel to the ground. You can do this indoors or out, just make sure you don’t put any holes in the ceiling. Slowly work the back of your glove hand square to your target as if you were going to backhand the ball off a waist-high tee. Most gloves have a logo somewhere on the top of the hand notice how squaring the logo to your target also forces your club face square to the target. This eliminates any chance of hitting the shank of the club.
One key ingredient to a shank is a lack of hip rotation. When you slide towards your target instead of rotating through the ball, your chances of hitting a shank skyrocket.
To fix this, focus on shifting your weight to your front foot and really rotating your hips through impact. When you combine either of the moves above with proper rotation in slow motion, you can easily see how the club naturally works through the hitting zone square to your target.
Hitting the ball pure is the greatest feeling in golf, it's what keeps many players coming back to the course. When you can stand over the ball without the crippling fear of hitting a shank, golf becomes much more enjoyable. Now that you understand what causes a shank and how to fix it, work on mastering these feels to play golf shank-free from now on.