I know…sorry. I said the “S” word. It is all in your head, right? You can try all you want to fix mental problems: yoga, meditation, performance experts, etc., but it will not change the fact that your technique is leading to “hosel rockets.” The shanks are a technical problem that make hitting golf shots a mental battle. So the solution should be easy, right? The technical problem becomes so bad that we start hitting shanks, and mental boundaries make the road to recovery a lengthy process. However, we must first solve the technical problems. If we work hard enough and dedicate ourselves we can overcome all the mental hurdles.
So yes, you need professional help. This does not mean after one lesson you will be cured; that is not how improvement works. Making the decision to go see your local PGA professional, one who has vested him or herself in gathering knowledge on golf performance, is about 10% of the battle. The other 90% is on you. There are no secrets, and there is not one thing we can tell you so you will be cured. There are no short cuts to better performance.
There are many reasons, or technical problems, that cause shanks to start happening. If you hit the occasional shank this article applies to you as well. Many times the bad technique is there, but some get them worse than others.
One possible reason is called early extension, as seen in the accompanying photo. Some call this “lifting the head,” “taking their eye off the ball,” or “looking up.” A lot of really good golfers take their eye off the ball, but not many have early extension. Early extension is the root cause of the aforementioned common phrases. One day I want to hear golfers everywhere say phrases such as, “my hips moved towards the ball,” or “my arms and club head are so far behind in the proper sequence.” Just a dream of mine.
Early extension makes it almost impossible to bring the handle towards impact in an advantageous direction. When early extension happens, the club handle moves up and away from the body, making the shaft almost vertical to the ground. When this happens the golfer loses control of the club face. We have some options to solve the problem. Notice I didn’t say fix. Fixing the problem would be trying to keep our head down. We do not want to fix the problem, we want to solve the problem. By simply trying to fix the problem we can cause multiple problems.
One option to solving the early extension problem is transitioning into the downswing by shifting the pressure into the ground with the left foot. This should create a squattingmotion, and will create space for the handle to move properly. After the squatting motion in transition the golfer can swing down as before.
If a squatting motion by putting the pressure into the ground with the left foot is not possible, because of limitations in body function, the handle and the club head must move in transition. The body then must react, or becomes passive. The hands and wrists become much more active. Every golfer extends, or lifts their head, or takes their eye off the ball. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. The body moves into extension, and the handle of the club and club head are not yet to impact. They are late to the party. This is why, for some, that we need to make the body passive, and focus on the handle and club head moving earlier than before.
The second possible reason shanks can become a problem is the club head being shallowed out too much, or moving from in-to-out so much that the hosel of the club head is moving out towards the golf ball. I find the most common shallowing out motion is when the golfer’s knees drive towards the target in the downswing, and the torso reacts by moving in the opposite direction. This can lead to a very shallow angle of attack. This motion could be very beneficial when hitting a driver, but can be detrimental when hitting a ball off the grass. It can be especially detrimental when hitting short finesse shots.
There are multiple ways to solve this problem, but one concept is to keep the trail foot on the ground as long as possible in the downswing, and rotate the core. This will help keep the spine more up and down, instead of the spine dramatically tilting away from the target. This will need to be done in sequence with the handle and the club head.
Remember, shanks are technical problems that lead to mental problems. We must first solve the technical problems, and then hit enough good shots in practice, and eventually on the course, to build confidence.
The first step to fixing the shanks is to call your local PGA professional and book a lesson. The next step is to work your butt off trying to solve the problems.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titliest staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.