One of a golfer’s greatest fears is that he will shank a shot. In fact, when the readers of golfdigest.com were polled about what was the most embarrassing golf shot, shanking came in second to the whiff--which means missing the ball entirely. Luckily, shanks are caused by a combination of swing flaws that are curable.
What is a Shank?
A shank is a shot that flies off the club at an unreal angle, sometimes almost straight right, rather than advancing toward the hole. A golfer dreads shanking the ball because it comes out of nowhere and is a shock to the nervous system. He might have hit normal-looking shots all through the round and then--boom--on the 16th hole he hits a shank. A shank early in a round can shatter the golfer’s confidence from then on.
Why it Happens
A shank occurs when the club strikes the ball on the hosel--the piece that connects the clubhead to the shaft--rather than the clubface. Renowned instructor Butch Harmon explains in golfdigest.com that a shank is caused by hitting the ball with the clubface in an extremely closed position--the toe of the club pointing nearly toward the target at impact. In addition, if the player makes an outside-to inside-swing, it increases the chances of a shank.
Golfers make the erroneous assumption that the ball squirts off to the right because they are striking it with the clubface in too open of a position. Their natural reaction is to close the clubface more on the next swing. That often brings on another shank. The nervousness a shank causes can disrupt the golfer’s swing plane and lead to another shank.
How to Cope
To deal the extreme embarrassment you feel when you hit a shank, remember that it happens to the best golfers in the world. In the 1964 Masters Tournament, Jack Nicklaus--who was the defending champion that year--shanked his tee shot off the 12th hole so wildly that it sailed over the heads of the co-founders of the tournament, golf legend Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, who were seated nearby. Another pro golfer recalls shanking three chips in a row the first tournament he played.It doesn’t get more embarrassing for a pro than that. Remembering these pro-level misadventures can help you calm down and laugh it off when you hit a shank rather than letting it ruin your mood and your round.
Cures for the Shank
Butch Harmon recommends a simple drill to train your swing to be shank-proof. Take a headcover and place it on the ground, parallel to your stance, just above the ball. If your swing path is outside to in, with the clubface closed, you will strike the headcover on the downswing. If you don’t, it means you are swinging from the inside and keeping the clubface more open--and you can say good-bye to shanks.