Back in my caddying days, there was a guy at the country club who had a peculiar setup when he addressed the ball. His hands seemed too stiff and straight. He looked uncomfortable. But he could really play.
Except when he got the shanks.
I’ve never seen anyone go from solid player to total chump so quickly. There were days when he pured every shot and was competitive with the best players in the club. But if he shanked even once, it was as if someone turned off the light switch that enabled him to power through a shot.
One shank led to another … and another … and another. He might hit some decent shots in between, but the caddies learned a very important lesson with him: Do not, under any circumstances, stand to his right and slightly ahead of him. At any given moment, that might be where the ball is going.
It taught me something else: If the saddest words in golf are “It’s still your turn,” then the most terrifying are “I’ve got the shanks.” (That’s assuming you can even say the word. To some people, it’s the “sh” word.)
When I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was something that would just come and go. I’d shanked three times in one round for the first time in my life, but surely that would be an isolated circumstance.
Right after writing about that experience, I went to the range, as I promised I would. OK, I thought, let’s get out there and get those shanks out of my mind. Let’s watch some normal-looking shots fly straight to the target.
And then I shanked. What’s going on here? How could it happen again?
So I concentrated even harder on my setup … and shanked again. More playing around with my grip, setup and stance … and another shank. Before I was done, I had shanked at least another dozen times – either that, or I over-corrected so much I hit a horrible hook.
All these years of playing our great game, and never once did I think to myself, “Don’t shank.” Now I was doing it regularly and couldn’t stop. This was one time when the range wasn’t helping. I wasn’t going to be able to fix this on my own.
So I went home, got on the laptop and Googled “how to stop shanking.” Up came this David Leadbetter video. It made a lot of sense: Get your weight on your heels and work on hitting the ball toward the toe of the club.
But I had to wait until my next round, two days later, to try it out. I walked onto the range before the round with trepidation. Would it really work? Would I able to get those shanks out of my head? I was so scared, I walked up to my playing partner and said, “I’m not sure you want to shake my hand. I’ve got the shanks.”
He pulled his hand back. Smart man.
And, just like that, I didn’t. I practiced what Leadbetter preached, and it worked beautifully. I didn’t shank all day. In fact, before long it was the furthest thing from my mind.
So I have a simple message today: If you have an issue with your game that seems unsolvable, get help – from YouTube, from a friend, from a teaching pro, from someone. It can be very helpful to watch a good instructional video or, better yet, have someone who knows the game watch your swing.
These things CAN be solved. Even the sh-sh-sh-shanks.