To stop shanking the golf ball, one must first understand what golf swing flaw is causing the shanked shots. In this golf lesson article and subsequent video by Herman Williams, PGA Professional in Raleigh, NC, we will discover both the causes and the cure for the shank.
First, a definition. A shanked golf shot is simply a shot in which the golf ball has struck against the inside corner of the heel of the club where the clubface joins the neck or hosel. This causes the golf ball to ricochet violently offline – to the right for right-handed golfers, left for the lefties.
Occasionally if you are really lucky the ball will make perfect contact with the front of the hosel where the shaft goes into the neck and the ball will go straight, but it will be a grounder as the blunt strike just beats the ball along the ground. If you’re not so lucky you may catch the golf ball toward the back of the hosel and have the ball fly right through your legs – kind of embarrassing when other golfers are behind you.
Lastly there is the rapid double-hit. Some shanked shots will ricochet off the hosel headed dead right only to be struck again by the toe of the clubface as it flies by – these shots exhibit a weird corkscrewing ball flight that still goes right but not straight out of bounds like the traditional shanked shot. The double-hit can be verified with impact decals on the face as you will see an impact mark on the heel and the toe from the same shot. However, it happens so fast you cannot hear or feel the double hit.
Most golfers think the shank and its violent, clanky offline flight are caused by an open clubface. However that is almost NEVER the case. In fact for most golfers the face is actually closed when the ball makes contact with the neck or hosel. The ball first contacts the rounded, angled portion of the inside of the neck and starts flying offline before any true contact with the flat clubface can be made.
So we know the face is not open and the ball flies dead right due to striking the neck. But why did it hit the neck? Well there are 3 primary causes. Two related to swing path, one related to hand and wrist action. [A 4th possibility is caused by losing balance with the body drifting toward the ball in the downswing, but we will stick to what the club is doing in this article. If your body is diving toward the ball, try to keep your weight centered over your feet - avoid extreme toe or heel weighting.]
What Causes a Shank?
Shank Cause #1
Severe in to out swing path. This is a path in which the clubhead sinks or falls behind the player on the downswing. As speed and momentum build up, the club literally flies from coming down behind the player to going outward through the impact zone. The club stretches away from the player in the hitting area and eventually reaches too far away and shanks the ball. A right handed player with this swing style will appear to swing to the right of the target, usually draws the ball naturally but pushes it often and has a high finish.
Shank cause #2
Severe out to in swing path. This swing path puts the club outside over-the-top of the swing plane during the downswing. As the downswing gets under way, the speed of the swing continues to build and centrifugal force sends the clubhead out past the golf ball well before it arrives in the hitting area. Even though the player attempts to pull the club back across the ball, it is rarely enough, and the hosel collides with the ball and shanks it. This player usually hits fades or slices along with pulls and has a finish that appears left of target and low with the arms down around the body.
Shank cause #3 is much more subtle.
The player with this 3rd category of shanks often appears to have a technically sound swing. The shank comes out of nowhere and is a mystery to everyone watching as the swing looks good to the naked eye of the casual observer. This 3rd category of shank involves casting and or incorrectly rolling/scooping with the hands and wrists prior to and thru impact.
During the downswing, ideally the wrists will be fully hinged 90 degrees or more and this hinge will be preserved well in to the downswing to or beyond waist-high. Assuming the player can get to a waist-high downswing position with full wrist cock intact, it’s what happens next that is so important.
The back of the left wrist must rotate down (supination) as the right palm also rotates down (pronation.) But this must happen without the shaft being kicked offline in an outward direction. In other words, for the right handed golfer the right palm must be looking down and driving the club shaft along the toe line. If the right wrist gets in a bind half way down and kicks outward to relieve the pressure, it will shove the clubhead out off the intended path and shank the ball.
To prevent this problem it is imperative to have a neutral to weak right hand position that will not tend to get underneath the grip & club shaft in the downswing and eventually scoop or shove the shaft outward. The weaker right hand will allow the palm to stay on top facing down while pressing the shaft down and keeping lag pressure along the back of the shaft all the way to impact.
Once you’ve learned to create a neutral to weak right hand grip, bend it with dorsiflexion in the takeaway and backswing to “support the tray of dishes” at the top. Then bring the club down with the right palm facing down for right handers. Keep that wrist bent back all the way to the hit. No scooping allowed.
For the shanks caused by swing path, simply put a box or headcover along the outer edge of the target line about one inch outside the ball and hit shots without hitting the obstacle. You can even create a gateway to hit through by placing a spare golf ball to the outside of the ball in play and then put another ball to the inside. This looks and feels like swinging thru a goal post and really sharpens the focus and the feeling of returning the clubhead on the proper path.
Check out the following video to see the causes and cures for the shank first-hand. Be sure to comment.