Avoiding the dreaded 'S' word in golf

A shank is the worst and most embarrassing shot in golf.

It happens when the ball makes contact towards the heel of the club, called the "hosel." The hosel is rounded, which causes the ball to shoot off to the right for a right-handed golfer.

As a teaching professional, I find this one of the hardest lessons to give. Just this past month I had two students come to me with the "shanks."

The scary part about shanking the ball is that it can happen all of a sudden, typically out of nowhere. It then gets into the golfer's head, causing him to lose total confidence in his golf game. Thus, it makes it difficult for the golf professional to help this student.

What causes the shank?

There can be several causes for the shank and you need to find out which one is causing your problem.

Common causes and cures:

  • Cause: Standing too close to the ball.

Cure: I suggest holding the grip a "fist and thumb" from the bottom of your zipper.

  • Cause: Having too much weight on your toes or sitting on your heels.

Cure: Be balanced at address with weight on the balls of your feet.

  • Cause: Griping the club too tightly causes tension.

Cure: Relax your grip. Pretend you are holding a bird.

  • Cause: Arms are disconnected from your body.

Cure: Keep arms connected to your body throughout the swing. Practice with a towel under both arm pits.

  • Cause: Hands too far forward at address.

Cure: At address, the bottom of the grip should point at your belt buckle

  • Cause: Too inside-out swing path.

Cure: Put a headcover about one inch outside the ball and hit shots without hitting the headcover.

Finally, you can practice hitting the ball off the toe of the club. You can stick a tee in the ground, beside the ball about 1 inch closer to you.

Take your normal swing and hit both the ball and the tee at the same time. This makes you hit the ball more on the toe of the club.

Be patient with yourself and the shanks will pass. Try some of the drills mentioned above.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris@gmail.com; golfdoctorjean.com


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