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How He Hit That: How Mahan recovered from a s_ _ _ _

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week's entry is not what you'd expect. Hinton looks at the shanked wedge shot Hunter Mahan hit in his semifinal match versus Mark Wilson in the Accenture World Match Play Championship, at Dove Mountain, near Tucson. Yes, like average golfers, even tour players hit the dreaded ho-zell when they least expect it. But unlike with average golfers, Mahan's shank (dare we say the word?) did not lead to more shanks. He recovered with a superb pitch to three feet on his next shot, went on to defeat Wilson, and then tamed Rory McIlroy, 2&1, in that afternoon's final. Kevin gives you some quick advice for the next time you get the shanks. And if these tips don't work, click on the second video. 

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


Here's Kevin: Definition of a shank: A mentally debilitating shot in golf in which a player makes contact on the hosel of the club, causing the ball to shoot viciously sideways and potentially bring oneself to the brink of tears. Blame is typically cast upon a wide range of sources . . . normally including the caddie, swing coach, boss, or often a higher power.

Here's a case where you need to watch the video before reading my comments. Pay special attention to the slow-motion replay of Hunter's downswing on this approach shot:



Now, here are my five keys to stop the shanks:
I typically see only a handful of reasons a golfer is shanking. If you do tend to hit the occasional "hosel rocket," check these common causes and fixes.

1. Not enough distance from the ball. Many golfers simply stand too close to the ball at address. If you start shanking, the first thing you should do is try backing up and playing the ball more toward the toe of the club.

2. Severely inside-to-out swing path. An excessive inside-out path can definitely lead to shanks. This is typically how a better player would shank it (though in Hunter's case in the video, see No. 3 below). If your normal ball flight is a draw, and it often turns into a push-hook, then this applies to you. A simple fix is to go to the range and practice fading the ball. By doing this, you'll greatly reduce your chances of shanking. You'll also make your swing more neutral, allowing for straighter shots.

3. Severely outside-to-in swing path. This is how a "slicer" would shank the ball, and it's actually why Hunter shanked in the World Match Play--strangely, his path was too severely outside in. He clearly corrected his path on the very next pitch shot, and played brilliantly the rest of the day. He knew enough to trust his swing, and made sure he kept his arms and shoulders relaxed on his downswing, promoting a more inside path into the ball. While many slicers typically hit their shots off the toe, if your arms get disconnected enough in the downswing, it can definitely lead to heel contact. Your fix is to learn to draw the ball. If you learn to hook it, you'll likely shank far less often.

4. Too much weight on your toes. If you set up up with too much weight on your toes at address, or move in toward the ball in your backswing, you can definitely shank the ball. Try to feel your weight more in the center of your feet, and err with your weight toward your heels.

5. Excessively open clubface at impact. Finally, if you've tried all of the above and you are still shanking, the cause can be as simple as leaving the clubface severely open through impact. Think of a race to impact between the toe of the club and the heel. Try to get the toe to win. Worse case, you hit a few hooks, but that's far better than shanking. If all else fails . . . it's much harder to shank a tennis ball!

And if you don't like tennis, take a tip from Tin Cup's caddie, Romeo (Cheech Marin):

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