Received this the other day from a new subscriber after a few emails back and forwards and after he had read my book:

I have to say my ball striking with irons and woods is really really good BUT with the short irons (PW/9i) from 115-130yards I seem to have developed the shanks (doesn’t happen all the time) but disastrous when it does.

I love getting emails like this. And I’m not concerned at all about the shanking problem because it shows me that change is taking place. Humans don’t like change, we resist it. It’s sort of like we want things to be different but we’re not prepared to make some changes. From a coaching perspective it gets frustrating. But when a golfer tries Automatic Golf, and gets back to me with an email like the above, I know some good stuff has taken place.

1. They have broken the shackles and started playing more freely. This is always a great idea and pretty much the starting point for playing better.

2. They have been brave and aren’t scared of trying something new. It’s actually quite rare…

3. The shanks (or any sort of golfing problems) show me that the swing is changing all by itself.

Here are some more thoughts on the shanks in this instance and what you can do about them.

When you remove the straitjacket and swing freely your swing is going to change. As already mentioned, this is a good thing. But because it’s changing there will be some differences. These differences could be anything, a slightly different position at the top of the swing, the club coming through impact in a slightly foreign spot or simply the extra momentum you’re now generating (because you’re swinging with more force due to the removal of stress and worry) causes the club and ball not to line up as they once did.

This is nothing to panic about and is all part of the learning process. It’s normal and I’m positive if you don’t start the internal dialogue and try and consciously work things out you’ll do just fine. Here’s what I think will happen.

Because you’re now swinging in a way that suits you’ll have far more awareness of what you’re doing. No longer blind, you’ll start to really experience this swing – after all, it’s your swing. From here the instinctive thing to do is make some minor adjustments. The two important words there are “instinctive” and “minor”. There’s no need for a major swing overhaul and any changes don’t need to go through some deep inquiry process. They should happen quite naturally.

– You may stand a tad further away from the ball (Or a little closer. But with the shanks it’s most likely to be further away – but then again, you never know. Golfers really are a strange bunch and nothing surprises me these days)

– The ball may move a smidgen further back (or forward in your stance)

– You may stand ever so slightly differently in your stance.

– Something else may happen that you have little awareness of. Improvement doesn’t always happen at the conscious level. I know some golfers have a problem with NOT knowing, but it has never really bothered me. What about you? Do you care if things happen for the better and you don’t know why?

The point is that change results in change. And if you’re going to improve your golf swing then there’s going to be some garbage along the way. It’s part of the process and the only way we can learn the boundaries of what we can and can’t do.

I’m reminded of some other sporting examples that highlight what I’m on about here. Try these on for size and see if they can spark something inside you…

I’ve heard Olympic athletes say that if they’re not getting injured 2 or 3 times a year then they’re not training hard enough.

A racing car driver must learn how fast he can drive by crashing once in a while.

A gymnast can’t become the best they can be if they’re scared of falling over every now and then.

For a tennis player to win “the big points” they must go for their shots. But this means they will miss every now and then.

Failure is part of walking into the arena but when it comes to golf instruction it seems we’re all too scared to make a mistake or two. Don’t. Embrace the odd shank (or duff, slice, top or complete miss hit) as a sign you’re on the right track. You’re learning and you’re playing the game.

I’d be gobsmacked if you stuck to your guns and held your ground here and your wonderful learning system didn’t automatically correct itself. This is what it does. When you apply automatic golf there’s going to be a slight recalibration, but once the mechanism resets itself, there’s no stopping you. Not even the odd shank can slow you down.

What are your thoughts?