X Marks The Spot For Longer Drives

-w/ Kevin Haime, PGA of Canada Professional 

The secret to longer, more powerful shots is in how you move your body, not how far your arms swing above or around your head. And when it comes to your body movement, if you can increase your “X Factor” you can really maximize your distance.

Way back in 1957 Ben Hogan wrote that “A golfer’s power is originated and generated by the movements of the body and is then transferred to his arms and then to his hands. It multiplies itself enormously with every transfer, like a chain action in physics.” Even in 1957, without the use of biofeedback tools, scientific data, 3D motion capture and a thorough understanding of kinematic sequence, Hogan figured it out on the practice tee. The real secret to more power and more distance starts with great body movement.

I use this simple broomstick demo to help my students understand proper body movement in golf. From above you can see how I turn my shoulders more than 90 degrees while turning my hips about half that far. The bigger the difference between shoulder turn and hip turn, the more stored up energy at the top of your backswing.

In golf, your body should wind and unwind like a powerful spring. The idea is to coil and release like a torqueing engine. Haven’t you always wondered how pros make the swing look so easy? It looks as if they’re barely moving or swinging that fast but the ball explodes off their club face and flies hundreds of yards. Well, the secret is in properly winding and unwinding the body in sequence.

Unfortunately, most golfers never really get the body motion right. Every day I watch golfers trying to hit the ball farther by moving around too much. The understandable instinct is to try harder and to somehow create size to develop club head speed. But, as the old adage goes, you have to “work smarter, not harder”. If you can learn to move your body more efficiently and in the proper sequence your swing will be more balanced and consistent and look a lot more rhythmic. And the secret to that motion involves your “X Factor”.

If you can maintain your X Factor number through impact, you’ll gain club head speed and distance on every shot. Your hips should stay well ahead of your shoulders through impact. Here my shoulders are square to the ball and my hips are a least 40 degrees open.

I first read about X Factor in 1992. The basic concept is to build torque in your backswing by turning your upper body against a resisting lower body. The idea is to turn against a flexed back leg. As an example, if your shoulders turn 90 degrees and your hips only turn 45 degrees against that flexed leg, then your X Factor is 45 (shoulder turn – hip turn = X Factor). So, if a golfer can increase X Factor with flexibility and strength they get more stored up energy, resulting in more club head speed and distance, especially if they can maintain the difference between shoulder turn and hip turn into their downswing.

The longest hitters in today’s game, like Dustin Johnson, not only develop incredible X Factor in their backswing, they also maintain it through impact. The difference between Dustin Johnson’s shoulder turn and hip turn at the top of his backswing is incredibly over 60 degrees and he maintains that X Factor number all the way through impact. To put that in perspective, most golfers we test in our 3D Motion Capture Studio have an X Factor around 30-35 degrees at the top of their backswing and that number almost always drops significantly through impact. Golfers generally turn their hips too much in their backswing, suffer from a lack flexibility and lose energy because of an out of sequence downswing.

While I realize that Dustin Johnson’s X Factor numbers are unattainable for almost all of us, understanding the concept of X Factor and coil in your swing can certainly make you a stronger, more consistent player. Pay more attention to how you coil and unwind your body and you can find better rhythm and lots of extra yards.