Why Did This Golfer Shank It? 99% of people get the answer wrong!

Why Did This Golfer Shank It? 99% of people get the answer wrong!

When you hit a shot with a poor strike (toe or, dare I say it, shank!), do you automatically start re-vamping your swing? Reading this article may change that for you.

I see this a lot on the lesson tee. After a poor shot, I often ask the player what they feel they did. In most cases, the player responds by telling me they made a hugely different move to their normal swing pattern – such as going wildly over-the-top, or massively early extending etc.

About a year ago, I asked a group of instructors what their thoughts were on why this player was hitting the heel of the club. Take a look at his swing

I got answers. A lot of answers in fact. Only one of them was correct – and this was only because the person who answered correctly knew me and knew what underhand tactics I get up to.

It certainly wasn’t my intention to upset people with this exercise – I just wanted to get people engaged and create some out-of-the-box thinking.


Before We Find Out Why?

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  • An amazing drill to quickly change your swing path and turn any slice into a draw, or neutralize any hook

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The Answers

As far as I can remember, the post got a couple of hundred comments from people giving their view for why this player was hitting the heel. These ranged from

  • Standing too close to it
  • Posture too far forwards
  • Steep takeaway
  • Right arm too straight in backswing
  • Hands too deep halfway back
  • Across the line at the top
  • Cupped lead wrist at the top
  • Shoulders too steep
  • Over the top downswing
  • Swinging out to in through impact

And much more. What were your reasons for why you think this player heels it? Re-watch the video and try to come up with an answer.


Video Again

So, what was the reason for the heel strike?


Hmm, did you notice anything strange about that last video?

pranav pre


pranav impact


pranav closer 1


pranav closer 2


That’s right, this video was of the player hitting a toe shot – the complete opposite side of the face.

I just tricked you!



The Swing

If you managed to come up with a reason for why the player heeled it, you now have to explain the fact that this player also toed it with the same movement pattern. Let’s take a side-by-side look (left pic is heel, right pic is toe).

set up

Set up is pretty similar.


Nothing discernibly different here in the takeaway

half way back

Could be twins

top of swing

Pretty identical top of the swing

half way down

Half way down – nothing to see here officer


Impact – ah, now there we see something different.

The swing is basically identical (on a gross motor pattern scale).

  1. If you agree with this statement, then it serves to pass that it’s the microscopic changes in the technique which are causing the difference – not some wildly different movement pattern. To which we must ask – how to we improve our ability to control these micro-techniques?
  2. If you don’t agree and you see some changes in the movement, then you have to remember that these changes were not conscious from the player, but were the result of self-organization around the player’s concept – to which we must ask, how do we improve this?

Let me explain that last point


The Real Why

So, why did this player heel the original shot? Simple…. I asked him to. The very same reason for why he toed the next shot.

His mind was on the task (hit X part of the face), and he responded accordingly. This player has high skill development, and is therefore able to shift his strike around the face at will – something poor players do not typically possess.


What’s The Point Of This?

I know this will get lost on many people – it requires out of the box thinking. But seriously, sit down and contemplate the idea/philosophy behind this.

  • I asked this player to hit X part of the face
  • He did it successfully
  • We have worked on his ability to do this
  • His gross motor pattern did not change, yet the strike changed significantly (enough to create a hugely different result)
  • All the mechanical reasons people gave for the shank shot were still present in the toe shot – therefore, how much weighting can we/should we give to gross motor patterns as a cause for poor heel/toe strike issues?

We are so conditioned as players/instructors to blame mechanics every time a player hits a poor shot. I have seen commentators blame the poor shots of Tiger Woods to his 8 inch drop in height that he makes. Yet the same commentators used to ignore this drop in height when he flushed it onto the pin and won his majors.

My point? I am trying to get people to realize that, rather than looking at mechanical reasons for strike issues, we can also tap into improvements in coordination of the micro mechanics.

Did this player need a complete swing overhaul simply because he was heeling it? Of course not – he has the ability to shift the strike pattern at will, even with the same overall mechanics.


This is not to say never work on improving swing mechanics (anyone claiming I am saying that will get a quick screenshot of this paragraph). Swing mechanics should be part of the puzzle – but it is my opinion that improvements in skill and coordination can override and improve even the worst movement patterns.


Ok Fine, But I’m Not Trying to Heel It

I’m not saying you are (consciously). What I am saying is that you either

  • don’t have an awareness of where you are striking on the club face
  • have an awareness, but haven’t developed the ability to change it
  • have the ability to change it and the awareness, but are not focusing on it (perhaps your attention is elsewhere)

All of the above can be improved.


Tedious Links

We can also link almost anything to a fault. But we must be careful with this practice.

If we were linking this player’s posture, takeaway, top of swing or downswing etc, to the heel shot, how did the player hit the toe with the same issue? Maybe the issue didn’t cause the poor strike – in as much as wearing golf shoes causes us to miss the sweet spot (99% correlation).

Why is this important? Think about it this way – how long would it take you to clean up the takeaway, posture, backswing, top of swing, downswing etc? You might spend years doing those things, and still hit it crappy.


Learn More

If you want to go more in depth with my philosophies on how to improve strike that go beyond the traditional mechanical approach, click below to check out The Strike Plan.

Strike plan enter


Cliff Notes


  • Be careful with what you think ‘causes’ a heel or a toe hit. As pretty much every golfer out there has a poor strike pattern/tendency, you could correlate anything to this fault. You could even say that wearing golf shoes causes poor strikes and have a 99% correlation.
  • Understanding how the brain organizes movement patterns to achieve an outcome (such as a centered strike) is the next level of golf instruction
  • Understanding how to improve the micro-mechanics of the golf swing which make a difference to the outcome
  • Did you really shank it because your takeaway was inside? Was your swing even that different to the previous one?
  • Build your skill – this player is skillful and can move the strike around the face at will. Coordination skill like this is not achieved via mechanical means, and can even be harmed by a mechanical approach.


One More Point

Many people may be asking, why would I train this player to have an ability to shank it and toe it at will? Well, this goes into some of the research surrounding how to improve, including my own study on how to learn to strike the sweet spot quicker. You can read this study here (click this link).


  • Steve Ruis

    Wonderful lesson! I am involved in training coaches and this kind of lesson would be very effective in that scenario. Thanks!

  • Kevin

    Good intention here however one simple question rather debunks the problem amateur golfers face every day: So if this highly skilled golfer can strike the club face, toe, heel at will, then he must never hit a poor shot? Impact is everything right?

    The answer is of course he hits poor shots or we’d see him as the top player on the PGA Tour making millions. So, if he can strike the ball on center by will, yet he still hits poor shots, even shanks (as we have all seen Tour players do) what’s happening?

    Ah! And just as you answer that question you’re back to square one with us amateurs.

    • admin

      There are more variables at play when it comes to playing on tour.

      Path and face relationships, strategy (making the best use of normal variations of performance), ground strike – not to mention short game, putting and ability to do these things under pressure.

      This player is a plus figure handicap – If you think getting on tour is solely about face strike you are mis-informed. However, for the average amateur, improving face strike will have a massive effect on their handicap and overall consistency.

  • Dean Walker

    Superb post. I have one question – do you think this can work on any level of golfer??

    I mean we all have different levels of talent and don’the you think sometimes it may be more effective to change a fundamenatal rather than this method??

    Dean Walker

    • admin

      certainly both can be of advantage. However, improving someone’s awareness and ability to move the club in space is of greater long term benefit, as it is a skill which will transfer to any technique they use.

  • Bill Schoneberger

    Very well done Adam, as usual!!

  • Jim Simmons

    This is way too funny and why we golfers need to pay close attention to the BS you folks offer us. DO YOU KNOW WHAT A SHANK IS? Your example and videos have “NOTHING” to do with a shank. If “I” could hit my ‘SHANKS” as straight as your “example” I would be scratch instead of teaching golf.

    • admin

      Jim – with all due respect, this shot nipped the hosel of the club and went a completely different direction to his intended target (and the previous shot). You are simply arguing the severity of the shank, not whether it was a shank or not (it was).
      The difference between the shank this player hit and a full on hosel-rocket is about 0.2 of an inch more toward the heel. The difference between the toe and heel shot presented in this article was about 3 inches.
      If you want, I could re-film and use a different example of a full on hosel-rocket versus a toe shank. You would find the same results as above. The point of the article is this – When an amateur hits a random shank, it is very likely that the macro movements they have produced are not significantly different, even though they often feel they have made a completely different swing. This information is then valuable to the average golfer who tries to re-model their swing motion after every shank, as opposed to managing the micro-changes at impact.

  • Jim Simmons

    To Adam and all his viewers:

    Please forgive me for using the term “BS” in my previous post. It was very un-professional of me and will never happen again. I truly appreciate all that the online coach’s and Pros post on their sites to help the golfers.

    Again; my apologizes

  • Loren Swartzendruber

    In the last year I’ve frequently shanked the tee shot on the same par 3 on my home course and on the driving range but on no other shots. I’m assuming it’s mostly mental–always in my mind on that one tee box.

    • admin

      Think less about what is causing it (which can be a rabbit hole) and more about how to fix it. I go through all the options to fix every strike issue (ft/thin/shank/toe) in The Strike Plan.

  • Bill

    I have used your methods taught in “the strike plan” to help with my toe shots and it has helped, greatly! As have other tips like use of the spray on the ground and on clubs. Thank you.

  • Thomas

    Hi Adam
    I guess you could associate the toe strike with the fact his club face is open during his swing which I feel causes him to try and square the face at impact pulling the path ( Swing direction to far left) resulting in toe strike.

    • admin

      He also has an open face and a left path on the heel shot.

  • Gus

    I have shanked alot lately, and it wasnt until I made a more steep backswing and downswing that I got away from the shank. So I guess it helps to have functional swing mechanics.

    I mean, it’s easier to fall from the bicycle if you always ride on one wheel…

    • admin

      Hi Gus. What happened here is that you changed one thing (steeper backswing) and it inadvertently had an effect on something else (got your hands to be farther from the ball in 3D space at impact – that’s the only way to stop shanking truly). While it has worked, the problem with this approach is that, should you begin shanking in the future (it’s very possible to have a steeper swing and still shank), you will likely try more of what worked in the past, which could get you into some trouble.

      When thinking about fixes, I always try to think in terms of “If I were to implement this with 100 golfers, what % would stop shanking”. The steeper swing approach, might be a 30% success rate, with a significant amount of people actually shanking more!!! I try to pick interventions which have a much higher success rate, like those in my Strike Plan program.

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