What Is 'the S Word' in Golf?

There is a word in golf that most golfers are scared of. That most consider very bad luck to use. That most of us try to avoid uttering. What is that word? The s-word. And what is "the s-word"? It's sh—shhhhhhh! don't say that word!

When golfers refer to "the s-word," we are referring to "shank." (Sorry, there's no avoiding it here.) A shank in golf is a specific type of mis-struck golf shot, the worst and most-embarrassing mishit short of completely missing the golf ball.

When a golfer hits a shank, the ball isn't even struck by the face of the golf club. Instead, the club's hosel (hence another term for the shank, "hosel rocket") or even the shaft is what strikes the golf ball. And that can send the ball anywhere — most-common is the ball shoots out way right — but almost always somewhere terrible.

And then your buddies laugh at you. But they are laughing to hide their fear.

Talking about shanks and especially witnessing one is considered very bad luck. Which is why if there is a need to refer to one, many golfers instead say "the s-word." Shanks, many golfers believe, are contagious. Once you hit one, you are more likely to hit another one; once the word is in your head, it's in your head; and once you've seen one, you might be the next golfer to hit one.

That's why a dictionary of golf slang, Let the Big Dog Eat! (affiliate link), defines shank as "golf's five-letter word."

So next time you are on the golf course, and you, for some reason, feel the need to blurt out the word ... don't. Say "the s-word" instead.

More definitions:

(Book titles are affiliate links; commissions earned)
Davies, Peter. The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms, 1993, Robson Books.
Pedroli, Hubert, and Tiegreen, Mary. Let the Big Dog Eat!, William Morrow Publisher, 2000

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