By Todd Kolb
May 22, 2020
The golf shank may be the most dreaded shot in the game. You think you’ve got a good shot lined up, then the ball flies low and to the right. Now you’re off course, you’re irritated, and you just wasted stroke.
So what can you do? What causes the golf shank, and how can you avoid it on your next round?
Here are some quick tips for fixing this nightmare of a golf shot.
What is a Golf Shank?
First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about when we talk about the shank.
A shank occurs when you hit the ball off the hosel. The hosel is the socket connecting the shaft of your golf club to the clubhead.
Here is a classic example of a shanked chip shot:
When you hit the golf ball off the hosel, the ball travels super low and far to the right, assuming you’re right-handed. If you’re left-handed, the ball veers to the left.
To put it another way, a golf shank is the quickest way to turn one of the most popular sports into a frustrating pastime.
Golf Slice vs. Shank
Some golfers confuse slices and shanks for understandable reasons. Both shots are aggravating, and both hinder your game with a right-ward ball flight. (Again, that’s if you’re right-handed.)
The difference is that a slice is generally caused by delivering an open club face at impact. A slice happens as a result of the orientation of the club face, not the point of contact. You can still hit the ball in the sweet spot (or off the toe) and hit a slice.
Now, this difference can be hard to feel. Fortunately, you can tell whether you’ve sliced it or shanked it just by observing your ball flight.
- A golf shank travels low and directly to the right.
- A slice gets up in the air and curves to the right.
For now, I’m going to share golf swing tips for overcoming the golf shank only. But don’t worry. If you also need help with your slice, we have plenty of material for you.
Causes of Golf Shanks
Now that you understand what a shank is and can pinpoint the difference between a slice vs. shank, let’s dig into why this problem happens to begin with.
What exactly causes a shank shot?
Well, that depends on who’s shanking it and what type of shot they’re making.
Why High Handicappers Shank the Golf Ball
Nine times out of ten, when a high handicapper shanks the golf ball, it’s because they’re “swinging too far out to in.”
What does that mean? Well, we are talking about swing path.
Think of what happens in the transition of your golf swing. As you bring your arms back down from the top of your swing, how do they move?
Do your arms travel out and across, rising above the swing plane of your backswing?
Most high handicappers have a habit of doing exactly that. They bring their arms too far out in the transition. This in turn exposes the heel and hosel to the ball at impact, causing the shank.
Why Low Handicappers Shank the Golf Ball
Interestingly, low handicappers also face the dreaded golf shank. Even touring professionals hit hosel rockets from time to time.
So what happens there?
Believe it or not, low handicappers typically have the opposite problem compared to high handicappers. In this case, skilled golfers have a swing path that brings the club head down too far from the inside . . . another swing motion that accidentally exposes the heel.
Why You Keep Shanking Chip Shots
Now, if you keep shanking your chip shots, you may be dealing with a different issue than the two I just mentioned. When it comes to chipping, you should look for the cause of your shank in one of these two places:
- Your Setup: Are your hands too far forward when you take your setup? Positioning your hands too far towards the target causes the club face to naturally rotate to the right (if you’re right-handed). This is what we call an open club face. And when you open the face, you bring the heel closer to the ball.
- Your Golf Swing Motion: Do you drag the club inside, closer to your body on your backstroke? If you do, you’re setting yourself up to expose the heel as you swing through. The better approach is to swing straight back and straight through.
(Side note: If you could use a little more help with your chipping, I recommend checking out the new Short Game System.)
How to Stop the Shanks in Golf
So how do you correct these bad habits?
There are a few tricks you can use to warm up before a round and make adjustments during the game. I’ll also share some drills to help get proper form into your body.
First, let’s take a look at how you can master the swing plane problem that’s holding you back.
The Anti-Shank Warmup for All Levels
Whether you’re a high handicapper or a low handicapper, prep for your next round with this simple exercise.
Stand with your arms straight out to the side. They should be in line with your shoulders, palms up.
- Take your proper golf posture.
- Rotate back as you would on your golf swing.
- Rotate forward as though you are swinging through.
Your arms should remain on a neutral plane on the backswing and downswing.
But if you’re a high handicapper, you may notice that you naturally shift to bring your arms out and across, rising above the swing plane you established on your backswing.
If you’re a low handicapper, you may notice that your arms want to travel in and under on the downswing.
This exercise reveals where your bad habits are and helps you make corrections before your round.
Tips for Stopping the Shank on Chip Shots
You probably already worked this one out for yourself. But as a quick reminder, when you take your chip shots, you want to work on establishing these two habits:
- Check your hands at setup. Make sure they’re not too far forward towards the target.
- Be sure to swing straight back and straight through.
Now for some drills to get these changes into your body.
Drills to Prevent Golf Shanks
Next time you’re at the driving range or practicing your garage, take a little extra time to run a shank drill. Choose whichever one (or ones) best applies to your golf game.
High Handicapper Drill
I call this one the TV Drill. You’re going to want a 6 or 7 iron for this one.
- Take your regular golf stance.
- Close your stance by shifting your trail foot farther back than your lead foot.
- Take your backswing.
- As you swing forward, be mindful of the handle. You want the handle to travel down, then up and to the right, ultimately rotating so your lead palm faces up.
When you think about directing the handle in this way, you force yourself out of that habit of swinging to the outside.
Low Handicapper Drill
If you’re a stronger golfer who still can’t escape the dreaded golf shank, try this drill. Again, use a 6 or 7 iron.
- Take your regular golf stance.
- Open your stance by shifting your lead foot farther back than your trail foot.
- Take your backswing.
- As you swing forward, be mindful of your lead shoulder and the wall behind you. (If there is no wall, imagine one.) You want the lead shoulder to stay low and work back towards the wall.
This adjustment helps you get back on the correct swing plane so you can center your contact with the golf ball.
Chip Shot Drill
Now, here’s a drill I love for eliminating the golf shank in your chip shot. For this one, you need two tees and an alignment rod.
- Lay the alignment rod on the ground alongside your golf ball. The rod should point at the flag or target.
- Put a tee at each end of the alignment rod.
- Remove the rod. You should now have an imaginary straight line between those two tees with your ball at the center.
- Set up your shot. Make sure your shaft is in a neutral position and your hands are not too far forward.
- Swing straight back and through, careful to make sure your clubhead passes over both the back and front tee evenly.
This is one of the simplest golf lessons for both checking your chipping motion and getting the feel of proper swing form in your body.
Thoughts? Questions? Comments?
These may seem like simple tips, but they address the vast majority of problems I see in golfers who struggle with the shank. Whether you are a casual amateur golfer or play for a living, hitting a shank happens to all of us at some point. But if you make these adjustments and run these drills regularly, I can almost guarantee you’ll see fewer shanks in your game.
Now I want to hear what you think. Has this advice been helpful? Do you have any questions? Any tips of your own you’d like to share? Join us in the comments!
For more in-depth golf tips, visit us at GreatGolfTipsNow.com. This golf instruction is completely free and packed with detailed advice to help you play better golf!
What is the most common cause of golf shank? ›
Because the ball darts right, most golfers think an open clubface causes the shank. But shanks usually come from an excessively closed face. The player swings out to in with the face closing hard -- both actions push the hosel closer to the ball (top). If the hosel catches the ball, it's shank city.Why have I suddenly started shanking the golf ball? ›
What causes the shank to happen? The shank happens because the clubface is closed and the toe of the club hits into the ground producing a long, skinny divot. Again, the shank happens because the club is dramatically shut at impact NOT open.How do I fix my golf shank? ›
- Try to miss the ball on the inside. The shanks are caused by an open club face and a cast pattern during transition and release 95 percent of the time. ...
- Stand farther from the ball. ...
- Stay tall through the swing. ...
- Focus on the inside of the ball. ...
- Have a drink.
This is usually caused from a lack of upper body rotation. To fix it, try this simple drill: Place a towel across your chest under both arms. Using a wedge, make half swings focusing on using your chest to swing the club. The towel should stay under your arms from start to finish.Why have I started shanking my irons? ›
(@MoggAcademy): Shanks usually happen when you move closer to the ball during your downswing. It's that simple. By shifting forward, you change the contact point on your iron from the center to the heel.Can a strong grip cause a shank? ›
Here are some of the major causes of the dreaded shank: A grip that is too tight and too much in the palm of the left hand.Can ball Position cause shanks? ›
Shanking a golf ball can be a result of poor posture and ball position at your address position. If you stand very upright at address this will ultimately get the ball positioned a little too close to your body creating a steeper angle of attack.Does swaying cause shanks? ›
Does swaying cause shanks? Yes. A shank can also be caused by swaying in your lower body during the downswing. This happens during your swing when you get out of sync with your shoulder turn, usually when you're trying to smash the golf ball.Can a flat golf swing cause a shank? ›
Can Cause the Dreaded Shank. One of the leading causes of a shank is a golf swing that has gotten too flat on the downswing. Delivering the club from the inside on the downswing is something you want to do in the golf swing. You need to be careful however of not getting the club stuck behind you.What causes a shank chip? ›
When your hands are too far forward, you force the club to lean forward as well. This rotates the clubface open to the right (if you're right-handed) and exposes the heel on the downswing. Inevitably, that heel is going to hit your golf ball and send it shooting off to the right.
Why am I hitting everything off the hosel? ›
1) You could be standing too close to start with. If you are crowding it it will be difficult to NOT hit the hosel. Try reaching for the ball a bit and see if it helps. 2) You might be either starting with your weight to much on your toes or getting on your toes during the swing.Why do I hit behind the ball when chipping? ›
A duff, also known as a chili dip, happens when you hit way too far behind your intended impact area and lay the sod over the ball. This often occurs when players are nervous and feeling pressure.What is the opposite of shank in golf? ›
Now, as I mentioned above, a shank occurs when you hit the ball off the hosel of your golf club. In a slice, you hit the ball fairly close to the center of the club face. This means that while a shank feels bad from the very beginning, a slice initially feels like a clean, solid shot.Can a closed stance cause a shank? ›
Stance. Your stance probably isn't causing you to shank the ball but it can still happen. What usually happens when the stance is a factor is simply that you're standing too close to the ball. Because you're standing too close, the when you're swinging the golf club you're trying to bring in the club too much at impact ...Can a weak golf grip cause shanks? ›
It's in a weak position, meaning there isn't much room left for the hand to rotate through impact. It's already almost facing the target. The weakness inherent in this grip can cause the clubface to remain open at impact, again leading to the dreaded shank.Why do pro golfers shank? ›
One of the main reasons for the “shank” is the player swings excessively steep and downward into the golf ball. This means that from the top of the swing, the club shaft gets very vertical coming down, and there is nowhere to go but down on top of the ball, usually with the hosel of the golf club.Can the shanks be cured? ›
But like it or not, you might find yourself in a situation where you're going to want to know a solution. Though awful, the plague of the shanks is curable. First thing you have to do is take a break from the course. You need some alone time to sort this out on the range.Do pros ever shank the ball? ›
Most golfers have shanked a few shots in their day, and even the most skilled professionals may hit a hosel rocket on occasion. Once a golfer shanks a golf shot, the fear of the dreaded shanks becomes a real concern.Why do I shank irons but not woods? ›
You shank irons more than woods because irons are easier to mess up at impact. Woods are designed to be easier to square when impacting the ball. Irons can easily be closed or open too much at impact which causes players to make contact off the toe or hosel.Why do pros stand so close to golf ball? ›
Why Do Pro Golfers Stand Close To The Ball? Professional golfers like Adam Scott and Tiger Woods stand close to the golf ball because they know this is the position they can get the most consistency in their golf shots.
What swing flaw causes a shank? ›
Shanks can be caused by a multitude of swing faults. But the most common faults are moving closer to the ball (with your body, hands, or both) and lagging the hosel. Figuring out what's causing your shanks by recording your swing in slow motion is a good place to start.Should you arch your back in the golf swing? ›
Phillips says it's OK to stick out your rear end at address, but don't do it by arching your back. Instead, bend forward from your hip joints, and keep your spine neutral. This requires core strength and proper lumbar-spine stabilization, but it will lead to a better swing and help you avoid back pain.Can you have too much shoulder turn in golf swing? ›
Too much or too little shoulder rotation can make striking the golf ball consistently very difficult, even with perfect hip rotation. Identifying shoulder turn issues is vital to the golf swing, since the shoulders drive most of the upper body movement.Do you chip with arms or shoulders? ›
SETUP: LEVEL THE SHOULDERS
For a basic chip, use a 52- to 56-degree wedge. Play the ball center, and get your weight forward so your left shoulder is over your left foot. Your trunk is the heaviest part of your body, so that's what you should move forward, not the hips (above right).
Typically, it is the sand wedge that is considered the best option for chipping. Sand wedges come in loft degrees that range from 54 to 58, and they can be suitable for a variety of golfing situations that require chipping.Which arm is dominant in Chipping? ›
For years it has been taught that when you're chipping, the left arm governs the motion and controls the clubface.Can weak grip cause shanks? ›
The weakness inherent in this grip can cause the clubface to remain open at impact, again leading to the dreaded shank. To fix the problem, strengthen your grip position by turning your left hand more to the right (as the photo shows).What is the most common mistake made in golf? ›
The most common error is a grip that is too weak, or turned too far to the left on top of the club. Another common error is a grip that is too strong, or turned too far to the right on top of the club. Often a grip that is too strong is the sign of a golfer trying to hit the ball too hard.Do pro golfers ever shank the ball? ›
Most golfers have shanked a few shots in their day, and even the most skilled professionals may hit a hosel rocket on occasion. Once a golfer shanks a golf shot, the fear of the dreaded shanks becomes a real concern.Can bad alignment cause shanks? ›
As Trolio explains, if the feet are pointing the wrong direction, it pulls the hips, knees and arms out of place, leading to mishits and shanks.
What is the number one rule in golf? ›
Purpose of Rule: Rule 1 introduces these central principles of the game: Play the course as you find it and play your ball as it lies.What is the rarest thing in golf? ›
First of all, have you even heard of a condor? We're not talking about the bird (a vulture), but the absolute rarest shot in golf. It's a "1" on a par 5, which believe it or not, has actually happened a handful of times.How many balls can a pro golfer carry? ›
On the PGA Tour, change happens far more often. There's no limit to how many golf balls a player can carry in his or her bag, so long as they comply with the One Ball Rule, which dictates the same model and manufacturer. Rich Beem used to play with a new ball on every hole.Has Tiger Woods ever hit a shank? ›
Tiger Woods at the Cialis Western Open: Yes ladies and gentlemen, even the famous Tiger Woods has shanked a golf shot. Just like Thomas above, Woods knew right away that the ball was offline, yelling "fore" to warn spectators down the right-hand side. Of course, Tiger would still finish runner-up in the event.What golfer never went pro? ›
Robert Tyre Jones Jr. Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Jones was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete at a national and international level.Can ball position cause shanks? ›
Shanking a golf ball can be a result of poor posture and ball position at your address position. If you stand very upright at address this will ultimately get the ball positioned a little too close to your body creating a steeper angle of attack.Can an open stance cause a shank? ›
Standing too far from the golf ball can cause a shank, but it's more likely to happen when you're standing too close to the ball. Shanks generally occur when your swing path is in-to-out and your clubface is open at impact.