I know I am biased when I say this, but I honestly believe golf is the most frustrating sport in the world – and there are few things that can send you wilder than the dreaded shanks.
Whether you are a high handicapper trying to find a swing or at the top of your game, shanks – otherwise affectionately referred to as ‘hosel rockets’ – will appear from nowhere from time to time, much to your annoyance.
Even the pros aren’t immune (see YouTube for some great, humbling compilations) and it’s a swing flaw that strikes fear into the heart of every golfer.
So why is it that these shanks sometimes appear in our game, and what can I do to fix them?
To stop shanking the golf ball you need to ensure you are striking the ball with the centre of the club, not the hosel. For many people, this will require standing a little farther away from the ball at address or moving weight more into the heels of your feet. A good swing thought is to try and hit the ball more out of the toe of the golf club.
When it boils down to it, golf is one of the most difficult games ever created due to number of elements that all need to come together in perfect unison to perform the perfect shot, a feeling that can be taken away as quickly as it was found.
Yet, despite how hard it is, we still put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform at a sometimes unrealistic level.
If I step up to a dartboard, for example, I don’t expect to nail bullseyes shot after shot, but at the range, any low hook or thin slice makes me clench my jaw and become extremely aggravated by the fact the ball wouldn’t just go straight.
In what other sport could you have such high expectations on yourself? I’m yet to find one, which is why, when all things come together and you feel great about your swing, there’s no better feeling.
It’s also why when the shanks start appearing out of nowhere, it can be so debilitating for your game, but also your mental state.
In this article, I’ve listed some tried and true remedies to help you cure your shanks and regain the confidence you need to perform well on the course.
What causes me to shank the golf ball?
The main cause of shanking the golf ball is a strike that is too far out of the heel of the club, close to the hosel. This generally comes about because your set up is too close to the ball, or you tip forward towards the ball during the swing. Try setting up farther away from the ball and maintaining head position throughout your swing.
The important thing to determine here is whether you are making that tipping movement forward during your swing as, if this is the case, setting up farther from the ball may just cause you to accentuate this movement, rather than eradicate it.
This motion can lead to early extension, or a ‘humping’ motion towards the ball in the downswing, which is one cause of the shanks.
By setting up your phone with a simple tripod you can easily film a few swings to work out whether this is your issue.
Ultimately, trying to hit the ball more out of the toe is the feeling you need to work towards in order to eradicate your shank out of the heel.
Why am I shanking my irons all of a sudden?
You may start shanking your irons out of nowhere due to swing changes that have impacted other parts of your swing. No matter what the cause is, the reason behind your development of the shanks has likely come about because you are starting to strike the ball too close to the hosel of the club.
There could be a dozen different reasons why a perfectly fine golf swing has turned into a shank-prone one, and it is most common for this to occur during a period of swing changes.
This is why it’s crucial people don’t scour YouTube for the instant fix or expect that one lesson with a pro will cure all ailments.
If you want to go for a lesson, I’d suggest booking three, spaced out every two weeks, as inevitably, a change to your swing will cause other issues, such as a tendency to shank, so it will be an ongoing process to get things right and make meaningful change.
How do you stop shanking wedges in golf?
To stop shanking your wedges, you likely need to work on striking the ball more towards the toe of the club, avoiding the heel and hosel. This could be due to standing too close to the ball at address or leaning forward too much during your swing, leading to a heel strike.
A great drill to use to stop hitting your wedges out of the hosel – or any iron for that matter – is the two-ball drill.
This is what you need to do:
- On the range, place two balls down in front of you, one a little farther away than the other
- You should be able to lay your clubhead between them (pointing towards target) but without making the gap too big
- The aim of the drill is to strike the ball nearest to you without making contact with the one farther away
- The intention of the farther ball is to make you consciously bring the swing a little closer to your body
If you have been striking the ball out of the hosel, this little change may well promote a strike that is more central on your clubface, eradicating the shanks.
See the below video from Rick Shiels for a demonstration of the drill in action:
Can standing too close to the golf ball cause a shank?
Yes, standing too close to the ball can definitely cause a shank. Shanks usually come about due to striking the ball too close to the heel of the club, making contact with the hosel. If you stand too close to the ball at address, this can cause the club to come through on the outside of the golf ball, catching the hosel rather than the centre of the clubface.
Standing a little farther away from the ball at address (which can be assisted by narrowing your stance) can help eradicate this, so long as you don’t tip forward during the swing.
If this is the case, standing farther away could just make you feel like you need to move closer to the ball during your swing, negating the impact of shuffling farther back at address.
You should be able to establish whether this is the case by filming a few swings from behind.
Can a bad grip cause a shank in golf?
It is unlikely that grip issues will be the main reason for shanking the golf ball. If your grip pressure is super loose, then the club could possibly be moving around during the swing, causing you to present more of the hosel through contact. But shanks are more likely going to occur due to poor stance or ball positioning.
There is a possibility that an overly strong or weak grip is causing you to strike the ball more towards the heel and hosel than the centre of the clubface or toe, but this is going to be rather difficult to diagnose without the assistance of a golf pro and a lesson.
In the meantime, the SKLZ Golf Grip Trainer is an extremely useful tool to help identify the correct grip and whether you do in fact tend to gravitate towards a too strong or weak position.
Are the shanks in golf mental?
The golf shanks can absolutely be mental and often come about due to a disconnect between what your mind intends to do and what your body executes. For example, if you truly believe you stand the appropriate distance from the ball yet continue to shank out of the hosel, your mental beliefs and the actual result may not be in alignment and may need to be addressed with video feedback or help from a golf pro.
The term feel versus real is often used in golf and rings true, as so regularly we swear we ‘shallowed the club’ or hit down on the ball, but on review of video or Flight Scope data, the reality was quite different than our belief.
Shanks commonly arise out of nowhere when we are working on swing changes too, as focusing on one element of our game leads to new habits or errors being formed in other areas.
If you worry that your poor mentality towards golf could be the reason behind developing the shanks, there are ample books and resources out there to help you master one of golf’s toughest features: the mental game.
Developing the shanks in golf can be incredibly frustrating, given their tendency to arise out of nowhere and the woefully unproductive shots they create.
The first place to look for a solution is ball positioning to ensure you don’t stand too close at address, leading to an impact near the hosel.
If the shanks are a new habit that have arisen seemingly from nowhere, it may be worth getting some professional help from a pro on both your physical and mental game to work through what could be issues tied up with ‘feel versus real’ and your poor execution of a concept.