Golf Tips: Shanks

By James Patterson
Reaching for the ball can cause a nasty shank.
Reaching for the ball can cause a nasty shank.

The shank is one of the most dreaded swing problems in golf. A shank is usually characterized by the ball going sharply to the right--or the left if you’re a lefty--and way short of your target. Cure the shanks to avoid poor scores and restore confidence to your game.

Let Your Arms Hang

Many amateur golfers make the mistake of having to stretch toward the ball, or standing too close to it. You have to either make more effort to reach for the ball or bring your arms closer to the body to make contact--resulting in a shank. Stand close enough to the ball your arms hang loose with minimal reach but not so close so they can't swing freely.

Try a Tee Drill

If you get the shanks on a regular basis, head to the backyard for a few simple tee drills. Set up in your usual shot stance with the club head on the ground. Put a tee in the ground about 1/8 of an inch in front of the toe of your club. Take some practice swings and see what the club head is doing in relation to the tee. If you’re regularly making contact, you’re coming inside-out with your swing. Try changing your swing path so you don’t make contact with the tee. Once you can do that comfortably, place another tee about 5 inches below the first so you’ve created a gate for your club head to pass through. Practice your normal swing, focusing on passing the club head perfectly between the two tees.

Keep Your Weight Back

Another common cause of the shanks is leaning forward or causing your weight to shift to your toes during your downswing. This pushes your hands toward the ball, and you strike the ball with the hosel of the club rather than with the clubface. To help cure this, practice with a shaft or rod stuck vertically into the ground behind and to the side of your left hip about 3 inches. As you swing forward, your body should come in contact with the shaft. Practice your swing until you can make regular contact with the shaft and you’ll learn how to properly shift your body weight through your forward swing and follow-through.

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