Shank StoppersYou’re enjoying a great day on the links, and you have an easy pitch to the last green where a par or even a bogey will give you your best score in a month. Easy pitch, easy swing, stick it close. But instead, some evil dragon maliciously guides your hosel toward your ball, and you shank it right of the greenside bunker. The shot so unnerves you that you proceed to shank a succession of shots around the perimeter of the green counterclockwise. Finally, in desperation, you putt the ball on to the green (thank God you have a center-shafted putter that only has a face and no hosel). Afterward, none of your friends want to discuss or even acknowledge that it happened. They merely look down at their shoes and avoid the subject of your 10 on the last hole. It seems that some folks feel shanking is contagious.
What Is It?
Actually, shanking isn’t at all the insidious, terminal, career-ending disease that most golfers believe. It’s just a heeled shot with an iron. That’s right. If you examine your golf clubs, you’ll find that there are two areas of the clubhead that can be used to hit your golf ball. One of them is large and flat—the clubface. The other is small and round—the hosel—and connects the clubhead to the shaft.
If you hit the ball with the heel of any of your irons, the ball will carom off to the right (for you right-handed players) at an alarming angle, and always, it seems, toward trouble. It has nothing to do with the face being open. A shank can be hit with a closed, open or square clubface. This is an important point because if you mistakenly think this is a face angle problem, then you won’t be successful in solving it.
Why Does It Happen?
The main reason you’ll hit the ball on the heel of the club is that the heel of the club is the direct extension of your hands when they hold the grip. When you hold a tennis racquet, the sweet spot lies on a straight line coming out of your hand. It’s truly an extension of your hand. The handle of a baseball bat is a straight line that extends to the sweet spot in the head of the bat. Hit a tennis ball or baseball with the extension of your hands, and the sweet spot is automatically on the ball.
A golf club, on the other hand, isn’t as simple or as natural as that. The true extension of your hands down the shaft ends at the hosel, not the sweet spot. The sweet spot is about two inches away from the end of the shaft you’re holding in your hands. In fact, people who have a good sense of space with their hands often shank their iron shots because their sense of the clubhead is that it’s at the end of the shaft. It isn’t.
Test this yourself by putting a tee in the ground between you and the ball, about an inch or so from the near edge of the ball. Hit the tee with the heel of your club when you swing and you can’t shank. On the golf course, you have to pick out a piece of grass and make sure you swing the heel of your club at that spot instead of at the ball. After a while, you should have a better sense of which part of the club should hit the ball.
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