The Golf Shank: 5 Tips for How To Stop It

The dreaded golf shank.

It’s the word you are never supposed to utter out loud. Many golfers simply call it the “S-word” or might even spell it out loud (S-H-A-N-K).

Why is the golf shank the most feared shot in the game? Why does hearing the word increase the chances you will do it?

Duck hooks are bad and a wild slice will hurt your score. No one enjoys topping a shot in front of their buddies and golfers lose sleep over the yips.

But somehow, the golf shank is worse. It can spread like a virus.

You can go several years without hitting a golf shank and all of sudden, out of nowhere, you hit one.

And once you hit one, it leads to another. Few things will make a golfer quit mid-round, but a case of the golf shanks will send you directly to the parking lot.

We want to explore this shot further, with this article covering:

  • What is a golf shank?
  • What causes it?
  • 5 tips for how can you fix it.
the golf shank how to stop it

What Is A Golf Shank?

The technical definition is easy. A golf shank occurs when the ball hits the hosel of the golf club instead of the clubface.

The golf ball striking the hosel causes the ball to violently shoot directly to the right (assuming you are a right-handed player).

The ball will not travel very far forward but may go a great distance offline.

Quite often a golf shank will end up deep in the woods or out of bounds. It can truly ruin your chance of a good score on that hole.

If you hit more than one, it can ruin your entire day.

It can be even more dangerous to your playing partners. The golf shank is so violently offline that it often can almost hit the other players in your group.

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What Causes A Shank In Golf?

Great question. This is where the golf shank gets complicated. Below we review some tricks to “fix the shanks”, but the cause is often hard to diagnose

“Why am I shanking my irons” can have several different answers.

You are doing something that presents the hosel of the club to the ball instead of the face, but it could be a combination of many factors.

You could be too close to the ball. You could be sliding in front of the ball before impact.

Your weight could be too far on your toes. You could be looking up prior to hitting the golf ball.

With many potential reasons for your golf shank, the fix isn’t always straightforward. There could be a breakdown in several parts of your golf swing sequence.

To complicate it further, there is a mental component to the golf shank. As soon as you get scared of hitting a shank, it seems to happen more often.

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There is no doubt that a tentative (not committed) golf swing can also lead to more shanks.

Bobby Jones famously said, “golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears“.

Overcoming negative thoughts is the most challenging part of fixing the golf shanks.

So, don’t lose hope! We have some tricks to help!

5 Tricks To Eliminate The Shanks

If you are battling with golf shanks, don’t feel the need to try all of these tricks at once – try them individually on the practice range and see which one works best for you.

Do you need a reason to laugh at the golf shanks? Check out the iconic golf movie Tin Cup.

In the second half of the film, the main character develops the shanks, and the way his caddie fixes them is comical.

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If the 5 tricks below don’t work, you can always try what fixed Roy McAvoy.

#1: Relax & Stay Positive

We know this seems like silly advice, but it is critical. One of the key differences between scratch golfers and high handicaps is their mental game.

Better players know how to put the last shot behind them and focus forward. The most important golf shot is the next one.

Avoid tension. Relax, take a deep breath, and make an aggressive golf swing.

Try your best to push negative thoughts out of your mind. Don’t think about golf shanks. Instead, visualize a well-struck ball flying towards your target.

Remove shanks from your mind and you may notice they leave your game.

#2: Weight On Your Heels

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One of the mistakes that can lead to a golf shank is falling forward during your swing. In other words, your weight is too much on your toes.

When taking a proper golf stance, you want your weight on the balls of your feet, but if you are fighting the shanks you might want to exaggerate the fix.

In other words, try hitting some iron shots with your weight on your heels.

Will this cause you to hit some pulls or hooks? It might, but that’s better than shanks!

Once you eliminate the swing that was causing the golf shank, you can start to move your weight back towards the balls of your feet.

#3: Stand Farther Away From The Golf Ball

You may be presenting the hosel to the ball because you are simply too close to it.

If you are fighting the golf shanks, give the ball some space. Stand further away and see if that eliminates the problem.

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Similar to trick #2, you may not need to do this forever, but if you start hitting golf shanks the first goal is to stop them.

Sometimes this means over-correcting. Trust us, if you come down with a bad case of the shanks, almost anything feels like an improvement.

#4: Try To Miss The Ball To The Inside

Nice and simple concept. If you are hitting the hosel, you are striking the ball with the heel of the club.

To remove the golf shank, hit 10 range balls in a row where you try to miss the ball to the inside (left of the ball if you are right-handed).

The idea – develop muscle memory of a different swing path. One that doesn’t cause a shank.

Once you do this drill with 10 balls go back to trying to hit the ball squarely. Did you hit any shanks?

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If not, you might have solved the problem. If you did, go back and try to miss the ball to the inside with 10 more golf balls.

#5: Take A Mental Break

It is often said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but in this case, maybe a little time away from the game will help.

We are not saying you should quit golf due to the shanks, but fighting this shot can be mentally draining.

If you have tried our previous 4 tricks, but you continue to hit the dreaded hosel rocket, it might be time to take a step back.

What type of break are we talking about? It could be for an hour, a day, or a couple of weeks.

One fun option. Leave the driving range and report to the 19th hole. Maybe a cold beverage will take your mind off the golf shanks and you can return for more practice.

If you have been struggling with shanking your irons for some time, you might want to take a week off.

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Put the clubs away and don’t think about the hosel of your club for 10 days.

The golf shanks can be so frustrating that you get burned out. Step away from the game until you miss it. A little time off may rekindle your passion.

You will start to crave hitting some golf balls. Get the clubs out and head back to the course or driving range.

Don’t let the “S-word” cross your mind. Grab your 7-iron and make a confident swing. Watch the ball fly towards your target!

Never Be Embarrassed By One Golf Shank

Why does one golf shank lead to another? You get tense and you get embarrassed.

There is no reason to be embarrassed. Even the best players in the world hit the occasional golf shank.

Did you know that Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth have all hit golf shanks during official PGA tour events?

Ian Poulter is most famous for playing great in the Ryder Cup. He has dominated the American team 6 different times.

Did you know that he is also famous for hitting golf shanks? Poulter frequently hits them while warming up on the driving range and has done it a bunch of times in tournaments.

Our point is that hitting a golf shank doesn’t mean you are a terrible golfer. It has often been described as “the closest miss to a perfect shot”.

Yes, you should work to eliminate it from your game, but don’t let one ruin your confidence.

Need more help on your swing? We can help!

Check this out: The Complete Golf Swing Sequence Guide: 7 Steps

Photo of author
Ray has been playing golf for 35+ years, including being part of his High School and College golf teams. While he still enjoys playing in amateur tournaments, Ray now focuses on growing the game of golf through teaching and coaching. He has two sons that both play golf competitively and loves spending time watching them compete. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +2 handicap.

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