The shank is an embarrassing golf shot and one of the worst types to hit. If you struggle with shanking the golf ball, then today’s guide should help you learn the causes as well as the ways to cure it!
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Let’s dive into today’s guide on how to stop shanking with swing tips from Instructor Nick Foy.
What is a shank golf shot?
In golf, the term shanking is a reference to a shot which is mishit and ends up going 90 degrees away from the intended target line (sideways). This happens because the golf club makes impact with the ball at the wrong spot.
Instead of making contact with the central area of the club face (the sweet spot), the ball makes contact with the hosel area of the club where the shaft connects with the club face.
Hitting a shank not only causes you to fall behind with your game scoring, but it also causes great embarrassment on a personal level. Laugh it off.
This shot is so dreaded in golfing circles that there is even a term for golfers who hit a high number of shank shots. Such golfers are said to “have the shanks”.
If a right-handed golfer hits a shank shot, then the ball will travel pretty low and sharply to the right side.
An even more dangerous version of the shank shot is when the ball purely hits the rounded part of the hosel and misses the club face completely. A rounded shape would mean that the golf ball can then shoot in any direction in an unpredictable way.
However, such shank shots are rare. Most of the times, a shank shot would mean the ball shooting sharply in the right-sided direction (for a right-handed golfer) as described above.
Shanks shots are not something that only amateur golfers hit.
Even professional high-quality golfers can hit shank shots. However, golfers with high handicap scores are probably more likely to hit shank shots than professional golfers who go on tours.
What causes shank shots in golf?
There are a few common reasons why a golfer hits a shank shot. Some of those reasons are explained below:
1. If the golfer stands too close to the ball when in stance
This is perhaps the most common reason out of all for hitting a shank shot.
Standing too close to the ball would mean that the golf club moves much too close to the ball. The golfer will then end up making impact with the hosel as he/she attempts to hit the ball.
2. If the golfer stands too tall over the ball or puts too much weight on the toes of the feet
With too much weight on the toes, the golfer ends up getting too close to the ball because the downswing motion results in the transfer of weight from the heels to the toes.
By standing too tall over the ball and having disproportionate weight on the toes, the golfer is already leaning towards the ball.
The weight transfer motion brings the golfer even closer resulting in the golf club getting too close to the ball.
3. If the golfer sits back or puts too much weight on heels when in stance
When there is too much weight on the heels, the golfer is almost forced into leaning back. However, when the downswing happens, the weight shifts forward and causes the golfer to move closer to the ball.
That motion, in turn, brings the golf club much closer to the ball and increases the chances of the ball making impact with the hosel of the club rather than with the “sweet spot” on the face of the club.
4. If the golfer holds the club too tightly
Remember that hitting the golf ball involves hinging and then un-hinging of the wrists. A whip-like motion is what makes the ball go farther. The hands need to be a bit loose and flexible when a golfer goes through the downswing.
Keeping the arms too tight and holding the golf club too rigidly does not allow the golfer to get the whip-like movement and increases the chances of striking the ball at the hosel of the club.
5. If the golfer attempts to cut across the ball or hit it inside out
When you attempt to hit the ball across or inside out, the golfer swings across different planes. Changing planes at a fast speed always carries the risk of the golf club being in the wrong plane when it makes impact with the ball.
The result could be the club hitting to ball towards the outer edge of the club face or making impact with the ball near the hosel. If the club hits the ball at or anywhere near the hosel, then it would result in a shank shot.
6. If the golfer has a flying elbow and fails to keep the elbow close to the body
A flying elbow happens when the right elbow (for a right-handed golfer) sticks out a little too much at the peak of the backswing. The elbow almost becomes horizontal and points away from the body.
This causes the plane of the swing to become very steep. A downswing along a steep plane causes the golf club to be more vertical or steep than it should be and increases the risk of the ball making impact with the hosel.
7. If the golfer leans his/her head towards the ball or towards the target
Leaning too much towards the ball or the target messes up with the posture of a golfer’s body. It makes the body and the swing arc move too far or too near to the golf ball.
If the swing arc gets pushed closer to the ball, then there is every chance that the club hosel will be the impact point with the golf ball during the downswing. That will certainly lead to a shank shot.
8. If the golfer pushes arms away from the body during the backswing or downswing
Similar to the flying elbow problem, pushing of the arms away from the body during the downswing or backswing changes the plane of the swing.
It causes the golf club to get too close to the ball and the golfer ends up making contact with the ball at the hosel of the club. That, in turn, leads to a shank shot.
How to Stop Shanking – Golf Swing Tips
Now that we have looked at some of the main reasons why shank shots happen, let us explore the solutions and how the flaws pointed out above can be rectified.
1. Check your stance
The most common flaw leading to a shank shot is not standing in the correct position. Stand far enough from the swing arc and the golf ball.
You can either set a fixed distance that works for you and measure that distance every time with your two feet (line up your left and right feet one behind the other).
Alternatively, you can simply hang your arms out in a natural way, then hold the golf club like you always do, bend your torso at the waist level, and act as if you are about to sit.
Also, check your shoulders and the angle along which your feet are. You must line up parallel to the line of the swing. Line up correctly with respect to the target.
2. Adjust your weight balance
Having too much weight on your heels or on your toes will cause you to lean forward or backward. If you find yourself in either of those two scenarios, then adjust the weight distribution until it feels right and well-balanced.
Remember that when you go through the downswing, the weight will gets transferred from the back foot to the front foot. So, it is important to have the correct weight distribution before you initiate the backswing.
3. Transfer weight from back foot to front foot
It is important is to ensure that you are not initiating the downswing with too much weight still on the back foot.
After pulling the golf club up as part of your backswing, transfer the weight to the front foot before you bring the club down and go through the downswing.
4. Get your swing path right
If you need to make any corrections to your swing path or practice it once if you are hitting inside out (or across), then do a trial swing before you actually hit the ball.
You can raise the golf club a bit higher above the ball and then downswing the club in the air thinking that you are hitting the ball for real. This way, you will note what your swing plane is. Make the adjustments that are needed and then hit the ball.
5. Fix the flying elbow
To keep the right elbow (for a right-handed golfer) from drifting too far out and away from the body, you can use one trick during the backswing.
At the peak of your backswing, turn the right forearm outwards so that the elbow automatically goes into the correct biomechanical position. The elbow pit faces the golf ball as you turn your forearm.
6. Loosen up a bit at the grip
In order to avoid hard hands, loosen up a bit at the grip of the golf club. You do not want to stranglehold the golf club. You want a smooth swing and a whip-like movement which can only come with a slightly loose grip.
7. Flex the toes up
If you find yourself getting too close to the ball or if you have a tendency of leaning in too much, then flex your toes up inside your shoes. It will shift your weight back and make you lean away a bit. With this trick, you can offset the tendency to move inward and hitting shank shots.
Golf Drills to Cure the Shank from Your Swing
While the tricks and solutions mentioned above are small tweaks that you can bring into your game to rid yourself of shank shots, they are by no means a lasting solution. The only way you can truly cut out shanking is through practice.
The following drills are designed to help you hit the golf ball from the sweet central spot of the club face and prevent shank shots.
1. Record your impact spots
You can use some athlete’s foot spray to track where your golf club makes impact with the golf ball. Spray some over your club face and then draw a line in the middle, exactly midway between the hosel and the toe end of the club face.
Try to get majority hits on the toe end side of the line.
Alternatively, you can mark the golf ball with a marker pen. Then hit the ball with your club and observe the spots that the marker ink leaves on the club face. That will give you an idea of where you are making impact with the ball.
You can follow the mid-point line routine in this case as well, and try to get ink marks towards the outer (or toe-end) side of the line.
2. A second barrier ball
When you go to the driving range, place two balls on the surface instead of one. The idea is to hit only one ball. But the second ball is going to be located slightly behind the main ball. The goal of this drill is to hit the main ball without touching the second “barrier” ball.
This practice routine will help you cut out shanks as you will have to position yourself correctly and get your timing right if you want to avoid the barrier ball.
The key to this drill is keeping the distance between the main ball and the barrier ball as small as possible. Having a large gap between the two balls will defeat the purpose of the drill.
Another variation of this drill is placing the ball beside the main ball rather than behind it. The second barrier ball should be placed outside the main ball such that the second ball misses the toe end of your golf club as you swing.
3. Right hip-positioning
When you go through the downswing, your hips will rotate. However, they should not move towards the ball as such lateral movement will cause shanks.
In order to monitor the hip movement, place some kind of object or your golf club holder behind you in such a way that at the peak of the backswing, the club head cover or the vertical object touches your back hip cheek.
Then, as you hit the ball, the front hip cheek should touch the object or head cover.
This drill will ensure that you cut out any tendency of falling over or leaning over towards the ball as you make impact. Moving closer to the ball causes shank shots.
4. Get the distance right
Standing at the correct distance from the ball is what this drill is all about. First, place the club behind the ball and let it fall towards you. Then adjust your feet such that the top end of the grip is directly below your chest.
If you shank too much, then have the top end align directly below your chin. Then, let your arms drop and hang freely and adjust your feet position so that there is enough space between them and the golf club.
With these tips and drills, and a lot of practice, you will most certainly see your shank shots drop and improve your stroke, swing, posture, and body positioning.
Happy golfing! Thanks for reading today’s guide on the golf shanks.
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