Why'd I Do That?

By Jim McLean Illustrations by Erik T. Johnson
August 10, 2014

The shanks can keep a golfer up at night. And they usually come in bunches, so your game spirals out of control. The afflicted golfer is said to have "a case" of the shanks, especially on wedge shots. It seems the more the shanker tries not to shank, the more he does. Troubling stuff.

If you hit a shank—that low, darting shot to the right—first understand the cause. It often comes when the clubface is too open on the backswing, which causes you to loop the club to the outside coming down—called swinging over the top. This re-routing can move the hosel closer to the ball, leading to a shank. It also can cause a shift onto your toes, another shank producer.

Here's what to check. Swing halfway back and look at the clubface: The leading edge should be basically vertical. Don't roll it open so it's pointing skyward. Next, at about three-quarters back, make sure the shaft is standing up pretty straight. Letting it get into a flat position is a death move. Finally, keep your lead arm tight to your body at impact. Hit these marks, and you'll avoid some disasters.

Jim McLean is a Golf Digest Teaching Professional.




Performance in golf is a blend of technique and what we call the Human Operating System (the physical, mental and emotional aspects). Here's what we've learned can cause shanking, and how to keep your H.O.S. running smoothly:

Be decisive: Even with a memory of shanks, make a clear decision about each shot and what your sensory awareness is during the whole process. Be decisive from the setup through to the end of the swing.

Don't overthink: Thinking too much causes tension to creep into the body, resulting in a high center of gravity. Make practice swings with your feet together or on one foot to regain a sense of balance. Also, keep your grip pressure constant during the swing.

Save images: You want to create new memories for the future. After a good shot or a good enough shot, soak it in for a full 10 seconds. It'll stick to your brain like Velcro for future reference.

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, Golf Digest 50 Best Teachers, run the Vision 54 golf performance programs.