Why do I shank the ball?
by David Im, DPT, TPI, CGFI
Titleist Performance Institute Certified Golf Fitness Instructor
Let's start off by defining what a shank is. A shank is when the ball is hit between the hossel and the heel of the club face. This creates the characteristic flight of the ball going anywhere from 45° to 90° to the right of the desired shot path.
There are many reasons why this occurs but I will concentrate on some of the physical limitations that can create this dreaded shot pattern. A hossel rocket or shank occurs because the club head has moved closer to the ball at impact compared to the set up position. This moves the area of contact with the ball from the center of the club face towards the hossel. This is most often caused by a swing fault called early extension.
Early extension occurs when the spine and hips move closer to the ball during the downswing often coinciding with a loss of posture. As the hips and pelvis move closer to the ball during the downswing, the upper body will lift up in order to maintain balance.
- Weakness in the gluteal musculature. This will often force the lumbar extensors (muscles in the lower back that assist in straightening out the spine) as well as the hamstring muscles to compensate. When these compensatory mechanisms are initiated, the golfer is forced to stand up in the downswing. Golfers whose primary activity involve sitting at work or at home often develop tightness in their hip flexors which will contribute to weak gluteal muscles through a mechanism called reciprocal inhibition.
- Weakness in the core stabilizers. Weakness in the abdominal musculature will limit a golfer's ability to keep the spine in a flexed posture in the downswing.
- Tightness in the ankles. Musculature, joint capsule or bony restriction in the ankles will limit the golfer's ability to squat down in the downswing and follow through forcing the golfer to early extend.
- Limited lead hip internal rotation. Any restriction in a golfer's ability to pivot around their lead hip will force the golfer to compensate by transferring the force of the downswing in other directions causing sway, hanging back etc...
- Limited spinal mobility. Limited muscular, capsular, neurological or bony mobility will make maintaining spinal angles during the downswing and follow through almost impossible. Once again a physical limitation will force the golfer to stand up in the downswing.
- Endurance. Even if the gluteal and core musculature are strong, if their endurance is poor, as the round progresses the golfer will swing as if they were weak and begin to early extend.
There are other causes of the case of the shanks such as an over the top swing, balance issues etc. In order to know for sure what is limiting your ability to hit the ball solidly and with consistency, you need a complete golf evaluation.
Call me to make an appointment for a full physical evaluation to improve your golf game today. Golf should be fun and enjoyable. Let me help you to get back or stay in the game.