NCG’s Golfing Glossary: What is a shank?

Whatever you do, don't say it out loud

Golf is hard enough without having to decipher the jargon that surrounds the game. It’s like people are speaking another language. 

Here at National Club Golfer we’re the publication for the everyday player and so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give you a step-by-step introduction to the wonderful world of the golfing lexicon.


This week it’s the shot that dare not speak its name. It’s so taboo, we can barely bring ourselves to whisper it, never mind say it out loud.


But writing it isn’t a problem, so…


Word of the week: Shank


There is a tradition in theatres that insists it’s bad luck to utter the word Macbeth.

Aside from allowing Richard Curtis and Ben Elton to write one of the funniest sketches in the entire Blackadder series, that reluctance to refer to Shakespeare’s classic drama as anything but ‘the Scottish play’ has an interesting parallel in golf.


Think carefully. Have you ever heard anyone actually mention the S-word out on the course?


It’s an affliction so dreaded by rank and file golfers that some consider it a breach of etiquette to even mumble it.

The professionals are far from immune, either. Henrik Stenson may be one of the world’s best but, at Doral two years ago, he hit a shot on the second hole that would have made a weekend chopper gasp.

Oh, how we laughed.


But what exactly is a sh…?


Dictionary definition: To strike the ball with the heel of the club, usually sending it violently to the right.


Think carefully. Have you ever heard anyone actually mention the S-word out on the course?"
What this actually means: Oh dear God! Where did that ball go? Did I hit you? I haven’t hit a shot like that in years.


I’ll play a provisional.


A shank actually refers to any shot where a golfer strikes the ball with a part of the club other than the face. 

It’s invariably the hosel, the unforgiving small block of steel that connects the head to the shaft, since that’s the nearest point to the face.


Even though the ball squirts out to the right, the shanks are usually caused by a really closed clubface.


The face shuts excessively towards impact and pushes the hosel closer to the ball. Hit that hosel, and you’ve got yourself a shank.


Origin: It’s an old English word, of West Germanic origin, and refers to the lower part of a leg – hence the lamb shank we all tuck into at a Sunday carvery.


It is thought to have come into use as a verb, and a golfing term, in the 1920s.


Use it in a sentence: “The shanks are like a virus, they just show up.”

A shank or a duck hook? Which is worse? Discover what’s behind another of golf’s dispiriting shots here.

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