Slice, hook, and bogey are just some of the terms used to define aspects of a poor game in golf. While “golf shank” might seem like a tool that belongs next to “putter” and “wedge,” it is actually a shot that belongs in the same category as slice and hook.
What is a golf shank? A shank in golf is a term used for hitting the ball with any other part of the club than its face. Most often, this is the hosel, which leads to the ball path shifting at an acute angle. When the ball is on a tee, miscalculation can lead to shaft contact, which is also a shank.
In this article, you will find out what to do if you shank the ball and how to stop shanking. You’ll also learn about pros who have hit shanks in high-profile events.
But before getting into instances of shanking and tips to recover from it, let’s go over the key reasons behind it, along with golf terms and meanings.
Why Do Golfers Shank?
Golfers shank because of a miscalculation in their swing path, which leads to striking the ball on the hosel. Sometimes the swing connects where the club head and the shaft meet, leading to an unintended trajectory. However, it isn’t an expected mistake but the result of a poor form of swing.
Here are a few factors that produce the golf shank swing:
- A lack of balance – With too much weight on one’s ones, one’s arm can extend closer to the ball, leading to hosel contact.
- Grip problems – A very loose grip can move the club forward on the downswing. And a very tight grip can move the hands ahead of the club head when swinging.
- Alignment issues – Improper lining up and bad stance are among the most common causes of shanking. Moreover, these problems lead to consistent shanks.
- Ball placement – While this, too, is a part of the alignment, it deserves its own mention. If the ball is too far forward, the furthest part on the outswing (the hosel) connects with the ball.
- Aggressive Swinging – When a golfer’s swing force is higher than his swing control, he deviates from his swing plane and shank.
What Is The Difference Between A Slice And A Shank?
A slice is defined by the path of the ball after a poor shot, while the shank describes how the ball is shot. Both slices and shanks are unintentional and require messing up at the point of impact, but they’re not the same.
Similarities between golf shanks and slices:
- Both are unintentional
- Both are affected by posture, swing, and framing
- Both lead to a high score
Differences between a shank and a slice:
- A shank refers to the point of contact, while a slice refers to the path of the ball due to poor impact
- A shank goes in the wrong direction from the beginning, while a slice curves towards the golfer’s dominant hand later.
Do Pros Ever Shank The Ball?
Professional golfers shank the ball but rarely. Sometimes pros can hit back-to-back shanks, though this is even rarer. Back-to-back or one-off, when a pro shanks the ball, the consequences are far more serious than the embarrassment that amateurs feel from their hosel rockets.
Here are three instances of top-tier golfers shanking during professional events:
- Phil Mickelson on the final hole of the 2006 US Open – Mickelson’s shank led to a double bogey which lost him the tournament.
- Tiger Wood’s 2009 PGA Championship Shank – The legendary all-time great shanked the ball in the 2009 PGA Championship’s second round. Shooting a 74, he fell behind in the standings.
- Sergio Garcia’s fateful double-bogey in the 2013 Players Championship – Almost every major golf news outlet has covered the double-bogey that lost Garcia in the 2013 Players Championship. But very few addressed the 17-hole shank, which caused the bump in his score.
As you can see, even a single shank can ruin one’s score and ultimately result in a loss. The difference between amateurs’ and pros’ shanks is that the pros recognize the mistake immediately and fix it by the next shot, which can help them recover during the round.
Casual golfers might not understand what’s causing them to hit shanks and may continue to shank the ball over and over. This can be frustrating and negative feelings can result in more shanks. Sometimes, this happens to pros too.
Here are a few notable instances of professionals hitting multiple shanks:
- Kevin Na’s attention-grabbing shanks – During the 2012 PGA Championship, in the second round, Na hit a series of shanks on the 15th hole. What was a par-4 hole became a 7-shot whopper for Na, who finished in 36th place.
- Ernie Els’s chain of shanks at the 2004 Bay Hill Invitational – What’s worse than having bad luck during a high-stakes event? Having it during the final round. Els hit multiple shanks on the 11th hole, going 3 over par as a direct result. He finished in 37th place.
- Patrick Reed’s Impressive Recovery – At the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Reed was competing with Jordan Spieth. He hit a handful of shanks on the 11th hole (par-3) but recovered to win the match 2&1.
A point worth noting is that Reed was already 2 up on Spieth when he started his series of shanks. So, he could recover more easily than the pros who were around the 36th spot in their respective shank-ridden tournaments.
If your shank turns into a series of shanks, remember that your mental state might be a big contributor to consequent shanks. Work on your nerves to recover after a shank. And work on your technique to stop shanking altogether.
How Do I Stop Shanking The Golf Ball?
To stop shanking golf balls, you need to make sure of one thing only: clubface contact. As long as you hit the ball with the face of your club, you will avoid shanking it.
By improving your alignment, grip, and swing-path adherence, you can ensure clubface contact and a shank-free shot.
Here are the steps you can take to stop shanking in golf:
- Fix your setup – You can hit the ball with the club face only if you set it up correctly. Use the right stance and position.
- Improve your grip – Check your grip to see if it is too tight or too loose because both of those cases can contribute to shanking. Get your grip right to control the club throughout the swing.
- Don’t take your eye off the ball – Looking at the target when launching a projectile is human instinct. But in golf, it is an amateur mistake. Don’t look away from the ball until your club hits it.
- Improve clubface alignment – Align the face of your club with the ball by ensuring that the leading edge of your clubface is at a 90-degrees angle from the target line. This minimizes hosel contact and consequent rockets.
- Control your swing – Once you’re in the right position and have aligned the clubface properly, the only thing you can do to shank the ball is to swing off-plane. So please don’t do that.
- Control the backswing to downswing transition – This practice can be considered an extension of swinging on-plane because it helps keep your swing tight. Pay attention to how your club moves as it transitions from upswing to downswing, and offset any nudges.
- Keep the clubface square to the ball – You can do this by keeping a flat wrist as opposed to gripping the club like a baseball bat. As long as the clubface doesn’t lose its alignment up to the point of impact, you won’t shank the ball.
Key Takeaways on the Infamous Golf Shank
A shank in golf is most often a case of hitting the ball with your club’s hosel.
But if you’re a beginner, you might even hit it with the part of the club where the shaft and the head connect. It is okay to shank in the beginning, and avoiding self-judgment can help you recover. Remember that even pros shank in high-profile events!