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Monday, 27 July 2015

Shank You Very Much

I don't know if there's something in the water, but I have been playing with three guys this year who are afflicted by the shanks.  It is an affliction so terrible, so frightening, that you really shouldn't even say the word out loud.  It is a mysterious affliction, the cause of which apparently varies from case to case.  In fact, whenever I'm asked what caused it, I either shake my head, or simply say, "You hit it off the hosel."  Which, I'm told, is not terribly helpful.

Yesterday, Steve hit several shanks.  He did the same thing the last time we played, looking desperately at me, hoping I would provide him with the answer as to why.  All I could do was shake my head and look away.  Today, Carl hit two shanks that ultimately ruined what was shaping up to be a pretty good round.  Billy shanked one today as well.  I just hope it isn't contagious, because I've got all the problems I can handle without adding the shanks to the list.

My old father would sometimes get the shanks right out of the blue.  He'd be cruising along, when suddenly, I've seen him shank his way all the way around a green.  It's mystifying.  It's frightening.  I thought, having witnessed several of these rather startling shots recently, I would see what Harvey Penick had to say on the subject.  In his Little Red Book, he wrote the following about the Shank Shot:

"A shank shot is so ugly that I hate to write the word.  Let's call it a Lateral Shot instead.

I had a student, a good player, who started hitting these lateral shots all of a sudden.  He called me to the range and showed me.

Knowing he was a good player and thinking he would work his way out of it, I said, 'I'll bet you can't do that twelve times in a row.'

So he stood there and did it twelve times in a row. 

'Now what?' He said.

'Go home and come back tomorrow,' I said.

Most people think this shot is caused by hitting the ball with a closed blade at impact, but this is improbable.  Usually the shot is caused by blocking off a pull,(Don't you just hate that, when you block off a pull?) or what you think is going to be a pull.

The ball may be too far forward.  Beginners may be standing too close to it.  Experienced players may be standing too far back.

Many times it is caused by the player trying to hold his or her head down too much.  This drops the head way down and extends the arc of the club, resulting in a bent left arm at impact.

Or it can be caused by poor eyesight.  Any pilot will tell you eyesight will change a bit from day to day.

Cures for the Lateral Shot:

Try conscientiously to hit every iron shot on the toe of the club until you stop shanking.

Never aim to the left.  You would do well to think you are aimed to the right.

Feel like the toe of the club is rolling over.

Place a pasteboard box or a tee about one inch outside of the ball lined up at the target (I'm not sure what a pasteboard box is, but I think he means the box should be laid along the target line, about an inch outside the ball, thereby preventing you from swinging outside in, or over the top.  If you do, you hit the box, or the tee). Hit the ball without hitting the box or the tee.

It is almost impossible to hit a Lateral Shot if the blade is closed.  Try it sometime.  Close the blade and make your best swing and follow through.  Keep it closed throughout the swing.  The ball may go left--but I don't think you can hit it laterally."

Harvey also told a story, which I can't seem to find right now, about being invited to a club that had become infested with shankers.  It seems the pro at the club had been stressing to them that they needed to hit down on the ball.  Harvey got them "clipping the tee," instead of hitting down so much on it and they were cured; at least until the pro started telling them to hit down on it again.

As for my buddies, who seem to be temporarily infected with the shanks, this is from Harvey, through me, to you.  As for me, I'm just going to try not to look.  I just hope it isn't catching.