It’s even hard to type the dreaded ‘S’ word that every golfer has experienced at one time or another. Last week, my wife and I and 13 other couples went to Maine for a 3-day golf vacation.
On the second day I played with a friend who started to SHANK his irons on the back nine. He was hitting woods off the tee just fine, but with his irons the shanks just got worse and worse.
So what causes this phenonenom? There’s always more than one way to make a shot in golf – desired or not – but predominantly for a shanked shot the club is being actively thrown outward away from the body as the contact point approaches. There are two major reasons why this happens.
First there are those golfers who take the club back so far to the inside on the backswing that there is no place for downswing to go but out away from the body at contact. Second are those golfers who misconstrue ‘approaching contact from an inside path’. They take this to mean that you swing inside to outside the target line on the downswing, resulting in trying to throw the clubhead outward at contact.
Any move that gets one pushing or throwing the clubhead outward on the downswing is going to cause big problems. Instead of hitting the sweet spot, the ball hits where the heel meets the hosel (where the shaft enters the club head). Because the shaft is round the ball goes nearly dead right (for a right-handed golfer) and, voila, you’ve got yourself a shank.
The cure is to keep the club from getting too far inside on the backswing and to get rid of the notion of throwing the clubhead from inside to outside at contact. A little insight into the swing will help you see the value in this. The swing itself eminates from rotating the torso around the spine. For a right-handed golfer you have to turn right for the backswing and then turn left to unwind into the downswing and follow-through. It’s simple, but somehow turning left doesn’t compute with hitting a straight shot.
From the top of the backswing, how can turning left and keeping the arms in close and ‘attached’ to the body cause the club to move from inside the target line to contact to back inside again? It works because the club head path is basically circular and not pendulum like. If you coil around your spine during the backswing the club is behind you and inside the target line – by a lot.
You don’t have to give the club any extra outward move on the way down to have it approach from the inside. Actually you have to work from keeping it from flying outward. As long as you keep your spine relatively stable and rotate around it your swing path will be correct.
Still skeptical? Check out the video (An Amazing Ben Hogan Video) that Doug posted a couple of days ago that shows a montage of Ben Hogan’s swing. It becomes crystal clear how much he pulls left across his body on the downswing. Or watch the pros’ practice swings during the FedEx Cup Championship this weekend and you’ll see they all practice a strong pull across the body, not throwing the clubhead outward. Practice this and you’ll be rid of the shanks for good and if, on a rare occassion you hit one, you’ll know immediately what to do.
One last comment on shanks; you can get poor pitch and bunker shots for the same reason. Any time you open your stance there’s a tendency to want to throw the clubhead at the target by slinging the arms out away from the body. This is particularly a peril on full bunker shots. If you have really opened your stance it will feel awkward to swing across your body, when this might be as much as 45% off line to your target.
Practice will prove to you that you have to swing around your spine and not toward the target to produce good shots from an open stance in a bunker. Cast your club towards the target and there’s a good probability that a poor shot or even the dreaded ‘shank’ will follow.