Ignore popular advice
Shanks – even the very best can have them. I remember playing with Tom Watson in the first round of the 1977 Open at Turnberry and he had two in one round! If the game’s very best can suffer from them, it’s no surprise that we can too.
If you’re up at your club this weekend and hit one of golf’s socket specials, your pals will probably say, ‘You’re standing too close to the ball.’ Possibly so, but the danger is you’ll then end up standing too far away and start reaching for the ball with equally undesirable results. If you’re desperate to stop the shanks, I would rather you checked out one of these four things, where I believe the fault is far more likely to lie…
1) Weight on the balls of your feet
Your weight at address should be on the balls, and towards the toes, of your feet, never on your heels. If you’re sitting too much on your heels at address, centrifugal force will throw your weight forwards on to your toes through impact, seriously increasingly the prospect of you presenting the hosel to the ball.
2) Don’t roll your hands
The second thing to check is your backswing and particularly the first part of your takeaway. With an alignment stick inserted into my club, you can see what happens if I roll my hands too much at the start of the takeaway (photo below).
The stick is sent out in front of me, again increasing the risk of the heel being presented to the ball at impact. If I take the club away correctly without rolling my hands, the alignment stick stays close to my side as I take the club back and through (photo below). The stick should never move away from my body.
3) Keep your shoulders square
The third thing is that your shoulders must be square at address, although your feet can be fractionally open. If the shoulders are way open at address, you’ll take the club back way outside the line too, and then to compensate, loop it back on to the inside coming back into the ball.
This will again increase the risk of a shank, and it’s all down to alignment at address. So remember – your shoulders have to be square.
4) Check your posture
My final checkpoint is posture. At address, your back should be straight and you should simply bend forward from the hips with some knee flex. From this position, you can turn solidly back and through, like being in a cylinder.
If you’re too hunched over the ball with your back curved and your chin set into your chest, everything in your swing will be moving around all over the place. Anything can happen then, including a shank! So think cylinder; stand tall; bend from the waist; and keep your chin up. From this position, you will be able to turn freely.