Above: In golf, there’s no offside field setting to help alleviate a bout of shanks.
It’s an emotive word, isn’t it? For some it’s anger, sadness and a blinding rage. For those watching, it’s sheer joy, laughter and mockery.
Up until three weeks ago, the word ‘shank’ – for me, at least – was associated exclusively with the braised variety. Red wine and beef broth mixed with fresh herbs, garlic, onion, celery and carrots; served on a bed of creamy potato mash.
Happy. Oh my, so damn happy. I’ll go as far as ‘love’ when describing my feeling towards lamb shanks. So much love that the thought of such a palate delight has me slobbery around the mouth, like that great big hound Beethoven when presented with a plate of sausages.
Word association is fun.
As mentioned previously, as a cricketer/batsperson I was not known for my ability to work the ball through the offside. So you can imagine the perverse delight I felt when I swung my 9-iron in an attempt to send it 129 metres to a back-left flag on the second hole at Royal Hobart Golf Club, only to watch the ball pierce the vacant gap between two fielders (trees) placed at point and cover point?
Granted, it sailed through the gap at a catchable height, but not even Ricky Ponting or Jonty Rhodes was catching that tracer bullet. From the moment it left the hosel, it had four runs written all over it. A more perfectly executed cover drive you’ve not seen. And for me, this was bliss.
But back to reality. Golf; where I’ve just hit my first ever shank.
As the ball came to rest at the foot of a tree, 80 degrees right of my intended target, I cried out to my matchplay opponent, “What the f–k was that??!!”
“That was a shank,” he replied with a smile, thrilled that it was now likely he’d not only win the hole, but would be gifted the match through the misfortune of his opponent having a hosel-infused meltdown.
I’d never hit a shank in my life. In fact, such was my lack of knowledge surrounding them, I thought they were exclusive to chipping. Where did it come from? How did it happen? WHAT??!! That won’t happen again, will it?
After I nailed a drive on the next hole, leaving myself 138 metres into the third at Royal, I can say hand-on-heart that I was giving no thought to what had taken place the hole prior. You know, the filthy shank I hit to lose the hole. Shank. Shank. Shank.
The swing I put on the shot felt rhythmical. Everything seemed to be back on the right path, except when I looked into the sky to where my 8-iron shot would normally be flying, my ball could not be found. And sure enough, when I looked into the offside field, there was my ball crashing into the boundary fence (trees) for consecutive fours.
This time, I did not laugh. And nor did my opponent.
My immediate thought was, F–k! What if this is me done forever? What if this unknown hitch in my swing and the mental disintegration that’s come with it forces me to quit?
By the time I’d walked from the secondary shank spot to where my ball came to rest – at the foot of another tree – I was resigned to the fact that I’d face the indignity of having a shank issue forever and would spend the rest of my weekends, for all eternity, hanging out washing and trialling pooper-scoopers for efficiency in dog excrement collection.
Yep, I’d become that house-proud bloke in your street, the one that all the blokes hate, because his lawn is A1 and he has a great relationship with his wife.
You know what’s even more bizarre is the fact that my next iron shot was a crisp 7-iron to 16 feet. The next was a pitch shot to eight feet. The next was a low-bullet 5-iron to 20 feet. I won the pennant match 2&1 and I’ve not hit a shank since.
Who can explain it? Why only twice for me and a lifetime affliction for some? And, just in case they come back, two pegs or one for a pair of pants?