The Shank

by Pat Dolan

Many golfers consider "the shank" the worst shot in golf. In a shank (if you are right handed) the ball squirts almost straight right from the moment you hit it. The first time it happens, it comes as a complete shock. You were probably winning and/or about to shoot your best round ever, when it happened.

You were probably playing "a safe" or "no brainer" shot when it happened. It was "the worst" --- "most unexpected" thing that ever happened to you in golf. The scene gets worse because --- you probably shanked your next shot as well.

So what is a shank?

Well technically it is NOT a "golf shot." A golf shot is something a player tries to hit. As far as I know, nobody has ever tried to intentionally hit a shank on the course while competing.
The shank is the portion or part of an iron where the clubface and hosel meet. When a golfer hits the ball in that area of the clubhead it produces a unwanted ball reaction which is called and widely accepted as a "shank."

(Oddly, due to its recessed position the shank rarely makes contact with the ball.)

The reason a shank happens is because the golfer is trying to play a safe shot. They are trying to "push" the golf ball rather than hit it. In other sports or games when we play a safety we "push" rather than hit. In baseball for example a "bunt" is a safety of sorts and we "push" or hold the bat rather than "swing it."

In golf when we "push," we "push" only the grip portion of the club forward and the clubhead lags behind. When that happens the face twists open allowing the hosel area of the iron clubhead to enter the impact area first. So in a shank the hands are in front of the ball (as much as 6 to 8 inches) when the clubhead contacts the ball.

Golf SwingNow for the second important part, "What do I have to do to get rid of them?"

I'm sorry but as far as I know NO ONE has ever gotten rid of "the shank." We may control it and do our best to prevent it but that's the best we can expect.

So, how do you prevent or avoid them. Well you need to do, "the opposite."

To correct it, you "must" reverse the clubs overall position at impact. In this case the clubhead "must" now come into the ball (impact area) before the grip portion of the club. In a properly hit golf shot the "grip" portion of the club and the "clubhead" should be in a relatively straight line at impact. Indeed that is our goal but at this time we need to overcome and reverse our present bad habit.

So to do the opposite you must get "the clubhead" into the impact area ahead the hands. Picture a pane of glass so big as to cover an area from the back of the ball up to your hands. In a shank your hands or the grip portion of the club make the initial contact with the glass breaking the top of the glass first. Now to correct it, you want the clubhead to break the bottom of the glass first.

To do it properly: first --- relax your grip (this is necessary because the wrists must be able to act like hinges and allow the clubhead to pass in front of them) second --- mentally picture the clubhead hitting the bottom of the glass before the hands, third --- just let it happen.

Once a golfer knows what they need to do, then the best way to do it is to simply let the body do it for them. I tell my students, "What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve --- "if" you let it."

The next thing I had my students do was to shank the ball on purpose. That's right, In order to correct anything you must completely understand why it happens. What better way to understand a shank then by intentionally hitting it.

So for your drill, I want you to intentionally hit three shanks in a row. When you do, you will know everything you need in order to avoid or prevent it in the future.

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