Why Do John Rahm, Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson Hit Shanks?

Every amateur in America that plays golf on a consistent basis has a huge smile on their face when they see a PGA Tour pro shank an iron shot. There are very few amateurs that haven’t come down with a case of the shanks so it is nice to see that even the best in the world can be bitten by the shank bug. The three PGA Tour Pros that are most likely to hit shanks today are Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Webb Simpson. So, why is this the case?

First off, take the time to watch these PGA Tour superstars hit a shank:

Jon Rahm Shanks

Justin Thomas Shank

Webb Simpson Shanks

Now that you have giggled or even hysterically laughed at Rahm, JT and Webb hitting shanks, let’s discuss why their shanks are very, very different from your shank.

When the common amateur shanks the ball it is because they have no shoulder turn, zero depth on the back swing and come completely across the ball by ripping with their shoulders, hips or legs. As they approach the ball, they have an extremely small radius and amount of time to get the club to impact on the target line. Most amateurs lift with their arms on the backswing, pull the club down below their hip on the downswing and flip to hit the ball. This means their golf swing is basically from their kneecap of their trail leg to the ball.

A tour pro has a complete shoulder turn and starts the radius of their swing at the very top of their backswing. They do not lift with their arms on the backswing. They turn with their core, upper thoracic and eventually their shoulders. From the top of their backswing, they start the downswing which starts the radius of the swing. This means their radius starts with the club at the very top of their backswing while the radius for an amateur starts with the club at about their knee.

When a Tour Pro hits a shank it is because the look up, lift, or give up on the swing right before impact and come across, exiting stage left. Amateurs have no clue how much time it takes to get the club from the top of the backswing (with a full shoulder turn) to the ball. Remember, amateurs are pulling the club to their trail leg knee cap and only then are they starting their radius. This means, when they do get an actual shoulder turn it is four or five times longer to get to the ball, both distance and time wise.

When you see Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas or Webb Simpson hit a shank, it is always because they look up or lift right before they get to the ball. The club face comes across the target line rather than staying on the target line and the hosel hits the ball. No, they are not bad golfers. No, they are not like the mere mortal amateurs that watch golf on the weekends. They simply did not complete the downswing by getting through the ball.

The reason these guys are hitting an 8 iron 180 yards is because they keep the club face on the target line well past impact. If they lift or do not keep the club lagging past impact, they are going to hit the ball on the heel or even shank it. You will hear Nick Faldo call it “necking” the ball. This is a quick fix for PGA Tour Pros because they have practiced their shoulder turn since they were five years old. They just need to drive under with the right lat and will crush the next shot; which they tend to do. You don’t ever see Tour Pros having shanks an entire round. In fact, they almost never hit two shanks in a row.