The Dreaded “S” Word
Three faults will cause you to have the shanks. Here’s how to fix them.
By Tim Cusick
Throughout the year, my students will often describe their mistakes at the start of the lesson. The one mistake they’re reluctant to mention, however – shanking the ball.
They might say, “I’m hitting it on the heel of the club” or “the ball is shooting straight right.” I’ll counter with, “you mean you’re shanking it,” and eventually they will agree that’s what they’re doing.
However, when I say shank, they cringe because it’s almost like hearing it can suddenly cause a case of them. I can assure you that there’s only three ways to shank the ball … and hearing the word is not one of them.
Shanking the ball is certainly a cause for some concern. When you start hitting the ball off the hosel, it’s important to understand what’s going on. As I mentioned, there are three causes to shanking the ball that you must correct.
1. Standing too close to the ball at address – This is the easiest one to notice and also the easiest to fix. When a golfer stands too close to the ball at address, they can make a good swing and still shank. Ideally, you’d like to have a balanced set-up, where your body weight is positioned toward the balls of your feet with a slight amount of knee flex and bend from your hips so that your shoulders are positioned even with your toes. This set-up allows the arms to hang away from the body enough to position the hands outside the chin.
2. Getting closer to the ball during the swing – Once the swing is in motion, ideally the body should pivot back and through on the axis of the set-up. However, when you move closer to the ball with your body during the swing, you run the risk of shanking. Common scenarios are:
- The head going down and forward, toward the ball, in the backswing or start of the downswing
- The right shoulder turning into the shot in the downswing
- The right knee moving out toward the ball in the downswing.
Work towards maintaining your posture throughout the swing. At address, keep your head up and back to where your neck is in line with your spine. This feeling should remain throughout the swinging motion.
As you start the downswing, the shoulders should remain turned until the arms and lower body pull them through after impact and into the follow-through. As well, the back-end should stay out and the right knee should move down and in toward the back of the left knee. These specific motions work to create space for the club to swing into impact and make contact closer to the center of the clubface.
3. The club swinging out too much in the downswing– A golf swing that goes out too far in the downswing is destined to hit shanks. Most of the time, a swing that has gone out too much in the downswing stems from a swing that has gone too far in during the backswing. Then, as compensation, the club either comes back down too far from inside
the target line and swings out at the ball too much or the club swings out and over the top on the downswing and creates a hit on the hosel.
Getting the club to swing up the plane, established at address, more consistently in the backswing is the first step to eliminating this compensation.
A good exercise to help understand where to correctly swing into impact is by placing a tee on the outside of the ball. Give yourself just enough room to swing down and make contact on the clubface while avoiding the tee. If the tee isn’t daunting enough, place a headcover in the same position.
Remember, the word shank isn’t contagious. Just review the three characteristics to help fix this dreaded mistake.
- There are three ways to shank the ball … and hearing the word “shank” is not one of them.
- The causes: standing too close to the ball at address, getting closer to the ball during the swing and the club swinging out too much in the downswing.
- A good exercise to help understand where to correctly swing into impact is by placing a tee on the outside of the ball. Swing and make contact on the clubface while avoiding the tee.
Tim Cusick is the director of golf instruction at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas. The Northern Texas PGA named Cusick the Teacher of the Year for 2009. Visit his website, www.timcusickgolf.com, or follow on Twitter: @timcusickgolf.