It's one of the most debilitating and destructive shots in the game, so in the video and article below, Golf Monthly Top 50 Coach Andrew Jones identifies the main golf shank causes and provides five cures to resolve this issue once and for all!
Golf shank causes
1. Poor address position
The first thing to check should be how far to stand from the ball. Too close and you’ll lose your spine angle in the downswing, lift out of the shot and hit an open-faced shank. Too far away and the momentum of the swing will cause you to lean into the ball through impact – again, the shank is the most likely result.
To help, picture a weightlifter just before they lift. Their shoulders are over the middle of their feet, with their weight sitting over the balls of their feet. As you address the golf ball, get your weight distribution in the right position, set the perfect ball position for a mid iron and then let your arms hang naturally down.
There should be a gap of about an open hand’s width between your thigh and the butt end of the club. This is the right distance to be standing from the ball and should help you set the perfect posture.
2. Unstable grip
The next checkpoint is your grip and in particular, your grip pressure. Some players have such a light grip pressure that the club moves in their hands during the swing. Again, this could be the problem.
Firstly, it is worth making sure you have a neutral, perfect golf grip - getting this right will always help. But to check your grip pressure, place some grass firstly on top of your left thumb and then between the butt of the club and the pad of your left hand. This grass should remain in place during the swing. If your grip pressure is too light it is likely to fall down.
3. Swing path
If you regularly shank the ball, it's vital you learn how to check your swing path. Most golfers know that the ideal path through impact comes from inside to outside the ball-to-target line. However, this knowledge (and the desire to attack the ball from the inside) can causes players to whip the club away on the inside in the takeaway.
From the top of the backswing, the only way to get the club back to the ball is with an over-the-top golf swing. Ironically, this causes the out-to-in path the player was looking to avoid and crucially, the hosel of the club is the first thing to be presented to the ball. It can also be one of the main reasons for why you pull iron shots.
To help, place a tee behind the ball, just outside the ball-to-target line. As you take the club away keep the head working just inside the tee, then as you approach impact, aim to miss the tee on the inside. This might take a while to perform successfully and you’re likely to hit some bad shots along the way but keep working on it. This simple drill will help you to groove a much better swing path.
4. Sliding into the ball
The last of our golf shank causes relates to the way your lower body is working in the downswing. Sometimes a shank is the result of a lower body ‘slide’ whereby the knees start to move towards the target causing the hosel to lead.
A great drill designed to stabilise your lower body is to place your golf bag next to your left hip at address. As you start the downswing your hips should bump into the bag and then your lower body turns (without sliding towards the target). If you find yourself clattering into the bag (with the bag coming close to falling over) work on stabilising your lower body.
Why Am I Shanking The Golf Ball?
5. Early Extension
This is another one of the most common golf shank causes - early extension. This refers to when your hips move towards the ball in the downswing. Just as with the 'sliding' issue above, it has the effect of cramping you through impact and forcing the hosel to lead into the ball.
Part of the issue here may well relate to core strength. You need the strength in your midriff to be able to maintain your posture throughout the swing. Performing some simple golf core exercises should help.
There is also a good drill you can use for this on the range with an alignment stick or at home, without a golf club. Stand upright against a wall and then take your normal golf posture so your backside is in contact with the wall at address (if you are doing this at the range, place an alignment stick behind you as shown above). Now practice your swing but, crucially, ensure your backside remains in contact with the wall through the would-be impact area.
If you have a tendency to move your hips towards the ball (as shown above), this drill will highlight it. You'll also quickly get a sense for what it feels like to retain your posture. Performing this move regularly will really help.
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Location: Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club
After turning professional in 1991, Andrew served as Assistant Pro at Royal Cinque Ports from 1993 until 1998, before spending three years as Head Pro at Lydd Golf Club. He remains in Kent and, after a spell as the Director of Coaching at Sene Valley, is now the Club Professional at Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club.
Students learn best when...
They have bought into your vision, passion and enthusiasm as a coach and are prepared to go on the journey with you sharing experiences and opinions with an open mind to what is necessary to improve their game. Both the pupil and the coach need to be entering this relationship with eyes, ears and senses wide open and a willingness give it a go!
Greatest teaching influence:
Fellow Top 50 coach, former boss and mentor, Andrew Reynolds. In my early years as a trainee PGA assistant at Royal Cinque Ports, he instilled in me the importance of the analysis of ball flight and also identifying cause and effect within the swing. Other notable (Tour) coaches I have studied carefully during my development have been David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon.
Most common problem:
The grip. For me, it has to be the poor connection to the club itself that can have a fundamental and sometimes catastrophic influence on how we stand to, move and deliver the club to the ball.
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