How to stop Shanking

How to stop Shanking

I don’t care if you are frightened of the word. I’m not going to pussy foot around and call it ‘the dreaded S word’. Man up! It’s a shank.

If you’re too scared to even mention the unmentionable, it is very likely that you suffer with them. Well, let’s have a little look at the issue.


What shankers think they do

I’ve done enough lessons to be called an expert (10,000 hour rule), and I have inevitably come across a lot of shankers. I’ve noticed something consistent across the board with them. This is what they think their typically strike patterns look like

They believe that they hit 8 or 9 out of 10 shots flush from the sweet spot, and then out of nowhere, in pops a shank (red).



What shankers actually do

Well, upon further inspection this is almost always the case. Their shot/strike patterns look more like this.

Patterns of shankers more commonly look like the above – where the blue strikes are actually quite successful (especially with modern day forgiving clubs), but they occasionally get a couple of red ones which make them pay attention.


Of course, this person believes they are incredibly inconsistent, because the result is inconsistent. But the fact is, they are doing the same poor things consistently. The answer is not to fix the 1/10 ‘random’ shank, the answer is to shift the whole pattern more towards the toe side.

This doesn’t mean every shot is going to be a toe, but that the pattern is moved in that direction to eliminate the shank.

Take the red pattern and shift it in the direction of the toe, until you get a desired strike


How  do I do this?

There are many technical ways to fix a shank – many of which I discuss in incredible detail in The Strike Plan.

However, let’s have a look at the skill-building route. This skill is;

Having the ability to hit wherever you damn well want on the face


You CAN do this

Sometimes I hear some bulls#%t about how people can’t change their strike pattern because of a technical flaw. But I guarantee you already possess the ability to shift your strike pattern more toe-wards.

That’s right, everyone possesses this ability, but they cloud it by trying to find mythical magical answers in the backswing. How do I know this?


The test

Try this.

Set up to a ball, swing back and miss the ball completely, brushing the grass on the inside of the ball (blue area).

You just did an EXTREME toe shot. Soo now you have no excuses – if you can hit the most extreme toe shot (so extreme that you miss the ball completely), you have the ability to shift your normal pattern a bit more toe biased.

I have NEVER had someone who cannot do this – this shows me that anyone has the ability to shift the pattern more toe biased.

Now the question lies in how much of that feeling should you use when you get to the ball? That is for you to decide and experiment with.


Task led drill

Draw a line down the heel 1/3 of your clubface as shown. Draw a dot on the ball. Place the ball on the ground. Now hit 10 shots, getting a point for each mark you get on the grooved area of the face toe-side of the line.

If you are not getting any points at all, break the swing into a smaller, more manageable chunk (a chipping or pitching swing) and gradually add speed as your success rate goes up. If this is too easy, add a toe side line, and get points if you strike between the two.

You can NEVER get too good and basic fundamentals such as strike on the face. And no one I see is good enough at these – so get practicing.


Constraint approach

Put another ball on the toe side of the clubface, as shown, with just enough room to get the clubhead on the ball, blocking off any heel hits. Now hit balls trying to strike the inside ball alone. Avoid hitting the outside ball.


Still can’t do it? I’m going to be harsh here and give you a reality check- you are not trying hard enough. How do I know? Because in people who can’t do it, I often replace the outside ball with my finger and force them to swing.

Out of the hundreds of people I have done this with, I have only had one guy who would have hit my finger. Luckily, I always move my finger in the downswing – what, do you think I’m stupid? But it just goes to show that often, the thing stopping us change is ourselves.

Push yourself into uncomfortable boundaries – that’s where change lies.


Attractor state

Understand that you have a heel biased pattern ingrained – we call that an attractor state. Doing the above drills will gradually shift that attractor state more toe biased, and hopefully centralized over the sweetspot. But you have to keep monitoring it.

Modern day clubs are so forgiving that we can hit really close to a shank and it still feels ok. This can then quickly become ingrained and lead to a heel biased pattern.

My advice? Even if you are striking it well, do occasional checks of your strike pattern using the marker pen drill.


More Info

If you want to learn more ways of getting rid of shanks, as well as diving more into the technical elements – check out The Strike Plan by clicking the image below. This HD video series also covers how to get better at ground contact to eliminate fat and thin strikes – improving your distance control, consistency and total distance, as well as improving spin and accuracy.

Strike plan enter

This article showed some basic examples of

  • external foci,
  • differential practice,
  • importance of concept,
  • attractor states
  • quantified practice
  • the difference between patterns, tendencies and ranges

To find out more about these concepts and more, they are detailed in my book “The Practice Manual – the Ultimate Guide for Golfers” – available on amazon by clicking the link below

 Don’t forget to check out my free Ebook “Golf Hacks” and join the thousands of golfers who have dropped shots with simple advice.
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  • golfer

    What would cause a person to have a ‘heel bias’ and since it is ‘ingrained,’ will it ever disappear completely? The typical ‘shanker’ you describe is someone with whom I relate. I have been conscious of this strike pattern and continue to try to move it towards the toe using your suggested drill and have had considerable success – not easy to game as I am now setting up in the “blue area,” so I have to really TRUST it!

    • admin

      With enough time, your brain will adapt and you won’t have to be so conscious of the process (research perceptual adaptation). Differential practice can help to speed up this process.

      • Kevin Johnson

        I’m a shanking phenom. I’ve come to feel that my natural swing is simply and deadly accurately, a shank. I’ve done the two ball drill where you line up to the outside ball but strike the inside ball only to beautifully and consistently shank the inside ball. I have been able to completely miss the ball on the inside as you stated in your excellent article. However when I attempt a strike, shank. I think my problem is that I shank for various faults. I shank from coming too inside to out with a closed face. I also shank from coming outside in with a closed face. And the most amazing shank I hit is when I place a 2 X 4 just outside my ball….and…get ready for this: I shank but do not hit the board. I have zero feel of the club face. Even a simple chip I can hit multiple shanks in a row. A solid strike on the sweet spot feels no different to me. If I was blind folded I couldn’t tell you which shots were solid or which were shanks. They have devastated my golf. I don’t hook, I don’t slice, I don’t chunk nor thin it. I shank. I drive the ball solid and long. But my irons are a mess. When I’m not shanking I hit it beautifully and really enjoy the game. But my inconsistency is unparalleled. Last week I played 9 holes….feeling great. I went: Par-Par-birdie-par-bogey-birdie-triple-triple-quad. All because of shanking. I’m going to focus on your advice. I’m just so frustrated. I’ve played golf for about 30 years ….had these shanks for last 15 years. I’m left handed. Any more advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Jorge Cerda

    An extreme version of this drill is what adam told me. Just put your smartphone on the floor and miss it in the area Adam describes. It’s very extreme but effective 🙂

    I was stupid enough to try it and was amazed at how well it actually worked haha

    • admin

      Jut watch you don’t lose concentration 🙂

  • Devo

    Thank you for this breakdown. I can be having a perfect round for myself, 5-7 over par, and out of no where hit a nasty shank. It ruins the whole round when I hit one of those nasty shots especially when it finds its way through a different tee box or even worse green. Here’s to hoping your suggestions end those embarrassing fours where your voice is cracking while yelling it from embarrassment!

  • Ian

    I empathise with fellow shankers! I can be having a great round then the dreaded shot appears out of no where (normally with a short iron). Then I can stop myself repeating the shank over & over again. Round is ruined!

    • admin

      Ian – The drills and concepts in The Strike Plan video series can help quickly fix any issues (toe or heel shanks) which pop up. Consistency is ultimately your ability to fix these problems on the fly.

  • Jon

    it seems the shankers are focussed on the ball itself rather than the path. The exercises ensure a good path.

    • admin

      It certainly could be. Either way, there is a subconscious disconnect between where they think the sweet spot is in space and where it actually is.

  • Nigel Richardson

    I have started to shank the ball when chipping. I sometimes do it very occasionally but now it is happening more often, is there a simple fix to stop this. Nigel.

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