Heel vs Toe Shot in Golf

Heel vs Toe Shot in Golf

In this article, we look at some of the technical (and non-technical) factors that can create a heel or toe shot in golf.


Before We Do

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  • shanks,
  • toes,
  • fats,
  • thins,
  • slices,
  • hooks, as well as
  • practicing better and improving on-course strategy –

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Which One Is Which?

On my social media, I recently asked the question

One of these is a heel shot, and one is a toe. Can you tell which one is which?

I paused the swing one frame pre-impact, and made it so you couldn’t see the ball.

golf swing heel vs toe pre impact


If you want even more info, you can see the video here.


The Evidence

While a few people got the answer right, many were wrong (even though there was a 50/50 chance).

Many even thought I was playing a trick and the swings were the exact same – this is not true.

So, while the differences were small (and that’s also an important point), let’s have a look at what they are. See if you can deduce which one is which.


Look At My Butt

Not a phrase I use every day, but take a look below.

Early extension in the golf swing causing a shank

The pink line represents the starting location of my butt.

You can see that, in the left image, my butt has moved forwards more.

Now, this (in itself) doesn’t create a heel shot, but the logic is that if the butt moves forwards, everything will move forwards and a shank/heel will be created.

However, in many cases, in response to the hips thrusting forwards, the upper body will often move backwards in an attempt to compensate or maintain balance. Here is a great example of that.

early extension toe shot golf swing

In the above picture, the butt has moves off the pink line a lot – yet it actually created a severe toe shot, as the upper body moves up and backwards away from the ball.

So, to know more, we need to look at what the upper body is also doing.


Upper Body

The head motion can provide a good indicator of what the upper body is doing. Let’s have a look at both.

head motion heel shot vs toe shot golf swing

Spot the difference?

In the left image, the head is more forwards (towards the ball). We can see this by the lines on the background on the simulator screen – more are exposed in the right picture.

The head moving forwards has a big correlation with heel shots. So, from this, we would deduce that the left is the heel, and right is the toe.

However, there is more to the story


Chest Rotation

When the chest rotates open, this pulls the lead shoulder farther from the ball.

When the lead shoulder gets farther from the ball, the hands tend to get farther from the ball too.

When the hands get farther from the ball, this relates to heel shots.

This is how Furyk is able to stand so close to the ball at address yet not shank it.

Furyk chest rotation impact golf swing

We see Furyk stand incredibly closer at address (yellow dot on left image represents lead shoulder location). Yet his lead shoulder moves up and back (see arrow in right image) through impact via one of the biggest chest rotations in pro golf.

So, let’s take a look at our heel vs toe shot…..

Chest rotation golf swing heel vs toe shot

This one isn’t insanely noticeable, but there are subtle differences.

In the right image, you can see less of the lead shoulder. You can also see more of the lower back and left butt cheek – indicating more rotation.

In the left image, we can see more of the gloves hand and lead forearm, also indicating that there is less rotation in the left picture.

This would indicate that the left image is more heel, or right image is more toe.

But, there’s a more important factor than all of these.


The Hands Position

As I discussed in last week’s article (link at the bottom of the post), where the hands are in space is HUGE in terms of strike location.

In the below image, I have made a hello silhouette for the hands to indicate where they are at address.

hands location start of golf swing address position

Now, where they are at address is not as important as where they move to during the swing.

So, let’s take a look, below.

hands location impact golf swing heel vs toe

You can see that, in the left swing, the hands have moved out towards the ball more – a good knuckle and a half more.

Another indicator of this is to look at the club shaft relative to the line on the simulator screen in the background – the shaft is closer to this line on the left.

This is a huge indicator of a heel/shank shot.


The Answer

So, the left image has

  • butt more forwards
  • head more forwards
  • chest less open
  • hands more “out” towards ball

All pointing towards the answer being left image = heel.

And, in this case, this is correct. Left image is heel, right image is toe.

12mm heel vs 18mm toe, to be exact (pretty significant strike change).

heel vs toe shot in golf swing


But Wait…. There’s More!

The differences were pretty small. A lot of people could not tell which swing was which. It takes a pretty trained eye to notice the changes.

This goes to show that, when you make a bad shot, the change in your swing has not been as dramatic as you think (this is true of most players) even if it “feel like” it was an incredibly different swing.

We often get fooled by the fact the result was so different, so we believe we must have done something very different too. But this is hardly ever the case.

Small differences matter. This is why I’m such a big proponent of skill development – a key part of all of my improvement programs. And you can check out those programs by CLICKING HERE


The Real Key

Now, here’s the biggest point.

When demonstrating the above, I wasn’t focused on any of those technical parts.

All I simply did was use my INTENTION to try to hit more out of the heel or toe, and filmed the results.

So, the intent was the driver – and the mechanical changes self-organized as a result.

Believe it or not, this is a trainable skill, and something that is very highly correlated with being able to hit the sweet spot.

An increase in ability to hit the toe or heel at will results in an improved ability to hit the sweet spot

Very counter-intuitive, I know. But something I have seen time and time again in lessons, my studies, and testimonials from Strike Plan members.

You can learn more about The Strike Plan by clicking below.



It’s important to point out that the golf swing is a soup of variables.

Some variables make you hit more from the toe, and some make you hit more from the heel.

One move by itself does not make a strike pattern – but it’s the number and amounts of these variables, as well as how these variables balance each other (in good players) or not (in poorer players).

A great example of this is that, both of the swings in my example had early-extension (butt moving forwards) and hands moving out, yet only one of them was a heel shot.

Also, both swings had the head moving back (toe-bias creating move), yet only one swing was a toe shot.


Learn More

If you want to improve your strike quality, hit it out of the center and strike ball-turf like the pros more often, check out The Strike Plan.

Or if you already strike it like a pro and want to improve accuracy, or just dive deep into topics like strategy, psychology, swing technique etc. then check out my gam-improvement area below.

Associated Article

The Real Causes Of A Shank (Heel) Or Toe Shot In Golf



  • Peter wohlars

    Great article! Keep ‘em coming!

  • Ron Sisson

    As usual Adam, you are spot on.

    Most golfers’ mishits are due to a lack of trained skill. Instead of understanding that skill and developing it, they tunnel down endless swing mechanics rabbit holes that ultimately lead nowhere.

    Take for example a sculled shot versus a flush shot. “You lifted your head!” is the usual refrain. Sometimes it’s, “You bent your lead arm!” Occasionally it’s, “You straightened your knees!”

    I tell my students that whenever they mishit a shot and one or more of their golfing buddies offers up their clichéd swing mechanics ‘cause,’ they should immediately come back with something like, “My sculled shot /worm burner was caused by lifting my head? Oh really! What’s the measurement?”

    What will occur next will be a moment or two of awkward silence, followed by puzzled facial expressions that will accompany their clarifying question back to you: “What do you mean, ‘What’s the measurement?’”

    “Well… you claim that my sculled shot was caused by lifting my head. So… what’s the measurement? HOW MUCH did I ‘lift my head?’ Was it 6 inches? 6 mm? Somewhere in between? What’s the measurement… exactly?”

    Then enlighten them…

    “All it takes to cause a sculled shot is for the leading edge of the club head to swing 3/4 of an inch above ground level. So if ‘lifting my head’ was the cause, my head would’ve moved upwards by… you guessed it… 3/4 of an inch!”

    “So let me see if I’ve got this straight…. So, without the aid of super slow motion video, without a solidly struck shot ‘control’ video for comparison sake, you are able to pick out that my head stayed level on the previous shot that I hit dead flush, but on this shot that I sculled, you saw my head lift by 3/4 of an inch, all at normal speed while my body is in full motion hitting this golf shot. Have I got that about right?…”

    “Wow! You must have some pretty sharp eyes!”

    “BUT… Are you sure that it was my head lifting 3/4 of an inch? Maybe my head stayed level and my lead arm bent by 3/4 of an inch? Or maybe my head stayed level, my lead arm stayed straight, and I ‘straightened my knees’ by 3/4 of an inch?”

    “OR MAYBE… My head lifted a quarter of an inch, my lead arm bent by a quarter of an inch, and my knees straightened a quarter of an inch to total 3/4 of an inch?”

    Talk about the “soup of variables”!!

  • Mark Emmett

    “Just pop in your email below, and continue to read this blog. The book will be sent to your email.”

    I don’t see an input field to do this [unless it’s the email box below ; ) ]

    • admin

      you may have a pop up blocker. Try opening the page on an icognito page.

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