Missing Shots Off the Heel - Shanking

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Published: February 18, 2014

One of the most frustrating misses in the game of golf is of course the dreaded S-word, the shank. In a Rotary Golf Swing it's typically caused by one of two things, and of course they both come down to fundamentals.

Nearly everything that goes wrong in the golf swing can be traced back to a problem with the fundamentals!

In the Rotary Swing, a shank is generally caused by:

  • Bad posture at setup
  • Not rotating on the way through

We'll look at each of these issues and how to solve them.

Posture at addressTerrible posture at address (left), correct posture (right)

Bad Posture at Address

The first issue is very common, and it's terrible posture at address.

We see golfers set up with the rear way out at address, the shaft very flat, the toe way up, and lots of bend because they've heard that you have to have a really steep spine angle and steep shoulder plane.

Tush line just slightly behind heelsThe rear is just a couple of inches behind the heels

The problem is, your body can't be expected to function very well when you're setting up to the golf ball like this.

As you swing back your body will want to stand up straighter, which will move you in closer to the ball. Momentum will push you forward and everything gets thrown off.

Good posture is paramount to the golf swing. Take your address position, get a little flex in your knees and tilt in your hips, and stand up taller. You're still going to get a good spine tilt, but you don't have to stick your rear way out.

Making allowances for different body shapes, as a general rule if you drop a shaft straight down from your rear it should fall just a couple of inches behind your heels. Most golfers won't want to go any farther back than that.

A couple of inches is plenty to give you a good, balanced posture. You get the correct amount of flex in your knees, and it will help you avoid shanking and keep you from moving your hips into the ball on the way through.

Failure to Rotate Through

The other common thing that causes shanks is failing to rotate on the way through. You'll have to watch your swing on video to see whether or not you have this problem.

The shoulders haven't turnedThe shoulders haven't rotated

This happens when you're coming into the ball from the top of the golf swing and you throw the club or get really aggressive with the arms on the way through. The shoulders actually end up shut as you come into the ball.

If you don't really turn your shoulders on the way back and then your arms get ahead of you coming through, you end up coming at the ball too much from the inside. You're leading with the hosel, and nothing good can come of that.

You'll come through in to out, leading with the hosel, and that's the only thing that's going to be there to strike the ball.

If you have this problem, you need to learn to rotate. You have to learn to take your right shoulder from the top of your golf swing and really drive it through so your arms end up in the position shown at right below.

That will square the club and get you releasing on around.

Rotate the right shoulder from the topRotate the right shoulder from the top (left) and drive it through to here (right)

Rules of Thumb

To avoid shanking, it's very important to follow these two basic rules:

  • Make sure you always get good posture at address. You can't really overemphasize that. Even the professionals have to go back to basics and work on their posture from time to time.
  • Make sure you continue to rotate. You can't get to the top and then just throw your arms at the ball. You'll leave your shoulders really shut and end up swinging way in to out, leading with the hosel.

Follow the fundamentals and always be turning. Rotate your body through.

A Better Problem to Have

It's impossible for you to shank it if you get into a good position at the top and then drive your shoulders really hard. That effectively shortens the distance to the ball at impact, compared to where it was at address.

Your typical miss should be to hit the ball off the toe - the exact opposite of a shank.

Most golfers struggling with shanking would much prefer to miss it off the toe for a while and learn how to set up properly to solve that problem, if it means no more shanks!

Work on your basics. Work on posture. Don't get your rear sticking way out behind you. Make sure you continue to rotate on through the ball, and your shanks should disappear.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • The two most common causes of shanks are bad posture at setup, and failing to rotate on the way through
  • At address, a line straight down from your rear should fall just a couple of inches behind your heels
  • Watch your swing on video to see if you are failing to rotate, leaving your shoulders shut at impact
  • If so, you need to learn to rotate - practice driving your shoulder through from the top

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