Fixing the "S word"

The dreaded shank – hosel rocket, el hosel, shankapotamus, socketing, shanks for the memories. defines the shank as: “Hitting the golf ball with the heel of the club, causing the ball to veer in the wrong direction.” More specifically, a generally accepted definition of a shank is when the ball is contacted on the “clubface-side” of the hosel, causing the ball to veer wildly to the right (for right-handed players).

I knew an Assistant Golf Professional who gave up the game of golf because he couldn’t stop shanking his chip/pitch shots – just walked off the course and left the golf business. It is my belief that if the golfer knows how to shank a golf ball on purpose, he/she can then correct the flaw by doing just the opposite. The basic cause of the shank is that the clubhead moves further away from the golfer at impact (or takes a path further away from the golfer) than is established at setup. Many things can cause this to happen: spine angle change through impact, weight goes to the toes through impact, tension causes the club to move “outside” the desired path through impact, excessive knee flex through impact, etc. Rather than focusing on what is causing the shank, my recommendation is to practice hitting the ball on the toe of the club – just the opposite of hitting it in the heel. Use face tape and experiment with smaller/shorter shots at first.

Concentrate on what it feels like to contact the ball on the toe of the club. Once you can hit it on the toe with small/short shots, begin increasing your swing until you can hit it on the toe with full swings. Once you master hitting the ball on the toe of the club, use face tape once again to establish contact in the center of the clubface. Finally, master the exercise I call “painting the face” – tee up three balls; put face tape on a 7-iron; then hit the first shot in the center of the clubface, the second shot on the toe, and finally, the third shot in the hosel. Remember, once you know how to hit a shank on purpose, you can always figure out how not to shank!

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