Why Do I Shank My Irons?
Shhh.. do not mention the ‘S’ word on the golf course! The superstitious golfers in your foursome shot in fear that they might unwittingly catch a case. That’s right.. the shanks.
Is there a worse feeling in golf than the dreaded shank? That moment of realization that the ball has not made contact with the clubface before it severely darts off way to the right of your intended target.
If you have ever got ‘the shanks’ you will know that they can be difficult to get rid of. In this article we will be taking a look at why you hit a shank in the first place, as well as some tips for how to fix it.
Table of Contents
What is a shank?
A shank is where the golf ball makes contact with the hosel of your golf club at impact. This sends the golf ball off a severe angle to the right, travelling nowhere near your target and probably not very far either.
It is up there as one of the worst golf shots you can hit. Not just because of the terrible outcome of the shot itself, but the psychological impact it causes.
One of the reasons a shank is so feared by golfers is that it is a shot that can happen at the most innocuous of moments, seemingly unrelated to the rest of your shots in your round. This can cause you to second guess your swing and start triggering other faults.
Even the best golfers in the world hit shanks. Perhaps most infamously Ian Poulter, who hit a shank on the 18th hole at the Players Championship and also when leading the Honda Classic in 2015.
Why do I shank my irons?
If you hit a shank, the first step to coming to terms with it is understanding why it happened. The simple answer is when reaching impact with the golf ball, your club is now slightly further away from you than it was at the address position.
There are two main causes for why this is happening;
An out-to-in swing path
One of the most basic swing thoughts that golfers get told by their Professional coach when learning the game is that you should swing from in-to-out. Doing the opposite of this results in you swinging ‘over-the-top’ and then trying to force your hands at the ball to correct the shot.
A root cause is often from taking the club too far inside the ideal swing plane. This encourages the typical shank-creating downward arm motion and swinging too far to the left through the impact zone.
Many recreational golfers find themselves with this swing path when they are consciously trying to avoid hitting a wild slice.
You have shifted closer to the ball during the swing
Shiting closer to the ball during your swing happens by moving your weight into your toes and leaning into the shot. The result is that the clubhead moves slightly further away from you and you will hit a lot of shots out of the heel or hosel.
One common reason for this happening could be that you are standing too far away from the ball in your set-up position. You then feel like you need to reach for the ball and your bodyweight is moving over the ball rather than remaining in a stable position.
How do you stop hitting a shank?
Once you know why you are hitting a shank the best way is to address it by using one of the two simple drills below to address the respective cause. Each of these tips were taught to me as a budding young golfer and to this day they remain the best tricks to help me and any of my golfing buddies out of a shanking crisis.
Address the ball at the hosel
Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds bizarre, but one of the easiest ways for you to improve your swing path is by setting-up as though you are going to hit the ball with the hosel, which is the very thing you are obviously trying so hard to avoid.
The purpose of this drill is that in order to strike the ball with the center of the clubface you are forced to adjust the path of your swing path and keep your hands on the inside. This creates the in-to-out downswing motion that will stop you hitting a shank.
In order to really exaggerate this movement, rather than striking the golf ball, intentionally miss entirely on the inside. This helps you get the correct feeling in your swing, before then progressing onto the above drill and finally hitting standard shots again.
Prop up your toes
This drill is perfect for golfers that struggle with too much movement in their feet during the swing and naturally shift their weight towards their toes. Find an object to put underneath the toes of both your feet (golf balls will do the job). Set-up and try to make a completely normal swing, whilst keeping the golf balls in place under your toes.
This is going to feel really weird and take a bit of getting used to, but stick with it and build up to a full swing if you are struggling. The idea behind the drill is to place more of your weight onto your heels and help you learn how to transfer weight better through your golf swing.
Hitting a shank is something that every golfer dreads, but the most important tip is to not overthink it. If you let one shank let you alter all your positive swing thoughts, it is going to have a knock-on effect.
Double check you are happy with your set-up and that you are not standing too far away from the golf ball. If that is not the issue, try using one of the drills mentioned above. Hopefully one of these quick tips will help you get back to enjoying your golf in no time.