The Y Factor : Your new key to power – golf swing – includes related statistics for specific players

Jim Mclean

Several years ago, I made a videotape and wrote a book called The X-Factor Swing, which focused on the fact that the longest hitters in golf have their shoulders turned more than their hips at the top of the swing. The X Factor Swing sold a lot of books and generated a lot of discussion worldwide.

Since then, I’ve videotaped hundreds of the world’s best players, and I’ve made a new discovery about how the pros hit the ball so far. I call it “The Y Factor.”

The Y Factor can give your swing more power than it has ever had before.

The key to the Y Factor is the left shoulder. Simply put, the longest hitters in the world move the left shoulder much more than you might think on the backswing. Tiger Woods, for example, holds the Y Factor record in my studies: He moves his left shoulder a full 19 inches back from its starting point. The average amateur I’ve examined moves his only 8.5 inches.

One problem with the X Factor was that it looked at the golf swing from overhead–a view the average golfer can never see. But the Y Factor looks at the swing face-on. To judge your own Y Factor, all you need is a full-length mirror or window to see how far your left shoulder moves.

But there’s more to it than that. On the following pages, I’ll show you what Tiger and other big Y Factor swingers like Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Karrie Webb do to hit the ball so far, and how average players go wrong. The Y Factor is really pretty simple–but it can mean a huge boost to your power game.

Vijay’s big Y gives him power

Here you see the Y Factor at work in the swing of Vijay Singh. The vertical line of the Y runs through the point of his left hip at address, then up to his left shoulder. The Y is created by the line from his original hip position to the position of his left shoulder at the top of the backswing. Pay particular attention to these factors:

* Like all good players, Vijay starts with his head well behind the vertical Y-line. Many amateurs start with the head too much over the ball.

* Vijay’s left shoulder moves well away from the target. At the top, his left shoulder is over the inside of his back foot.

* The point of his left shoulder has dropped three inches. This is a result of his being bent toward the ball at address and keeping his spine angle as he swings.

* His head and hips have also moved away from the target. Moral: It’s OK to move laterally on the backswing.

The Y Factor is defined by how much the left shoulder moves back and by the angle formed at the top of the Y. The bigger your Y Factor, the greater your potential to hit the ball a long way.

How does your Y Factor stack up?

As this chart shows, nearly every player with a large Y Factor shoulder turn is a long hitter–Woods, Singh, Els, Garcia, Pak and Webb being obvious examples.

Left shoulder moves Y Factor angle

back this far


Tiger Woods 19 58[degrees]

Se Ri Pak 17 46[degrees]

Ernie Els 16.5 56[degrees]

Sergio Garcia 16 58[degrees]

Karrie Webb 16 55[degrees]

Vijay Singh 15 58[degrees]

Greg Norman 15 50[degrees]

Justin Leonard 14.5 51[degrees]

Mike Weir 14 52[degrees]

Phil Mickelson 14 53[degrees]

Davis Love III 13.5 46[degrees]

Annika Sorenstam 13.5 48[degrees]

Shigeki Maruyama 12.5 58[degrees]

David Duval 12 47[degrees]

Jim Furyk 9 35[degrees]

Average pro 14.1 51.5[degrees]

Average amateur 8.5 33.7[degrees]

Left shoulder moves Hip moves back

down this far this far (inches)


Tiger Woods 4 3.5

Se Ri Pak 0 4.5

Ernie Els 4.5 2

Sergio Garcia 3.5 4

Karrie Webb 3 4

Vijay Singh 3 4

Greg Norman 3.5 3

Justin Leonard 2.5 4

Mike Weir 4 2

Phil Mickelson 3 2.5

Davis Love III 2.5 2.5

Annika Sorenstam 3.5 4

Shigeki Maruyama 4.5 2

David Duval 4.5 2.5

Jim Furyk 3 2.5

Average pro 3.2 2.6

Average amateur 2.5 1.5

Head starts this far Head is this far

behind Y-line behind Y-line at top

(inches) (inches)

Tiger Woods 10 15

Se Ri Pak 7.5 13

Ernie Els 8.5 12.5

Sergio Garcia 8 13

Karrie Webb 8 15

Vijay Singh 6 10.5

Greg Norman 7 11.5

Justin Leonard 8.5 12.5

Mike Weir 8.5 13

Phil Mickelson 9.5 14

Davis Love III 4 7.5

Annika Sorenstam 6 10

Shigeki Maruyama 8 9.5

David Duval 6.5 7.5

Jim Furyk 5.5 6.5

Average pro 7.8 11.4

Average amateur 6.1 6.8

Note how much the head and, in most cases, the hips of these players move away from the target as they take the club back. This proves that the old “swing in a barrel” philosophy–in which you keep your head and torso anchored over one spot during the swing–no longer applies.

For the most part, the shorter hitters here, like Jim Furyk, have little shoulder or head movement. David Duval doesn’t have a huge Y Factor, but his powerful turn through the ball saves him.

As for the amateurs I measured, they average a Y Factor angle of only 33.7 degrees versus 51.5 for the pros, and only 8.5 inches of left shoulder motion versus 14.1 inches for the average pro. No wonder the pros hit it so much farther!

Turn your shoulder over your right foot for maximum power

Here’s a quick and easy way to get a feel for the Y Factor. In your set-up position, place a club on the ground just inside your right foot, as shown. Hold another club across your shoulders. Notice how, in a good setup, the club is higher on your target side. Now rotate around your right leg, or “right post” as I prefer to call it. Notice how the clubhead you’re holding is now lower than where it started.

Try to get the club that is across your shoulders to be directly over the club on the ground at the top of your turn. If you can do this and keep your right leg firm, you can create a powerful Y Factor.

Turn X into upside-down Y

Fitness expert Dave Parise suggests this Y Factor stretch. Lie in the first position.Then, keeping your left heel on the ground and your head between your arms, try to put your left hand over your right, fingertips to fingertips. At maximum stretch, exhale and try to stretch farther. (For more information, visit

Move from box to box

Too many high-handicappers think they have to keep their head anchored over one spot as they swing. On the contrary: If you make a powerful turn on the backswing, your sternum and your head will move away from the target. As the chart shows, Tiger’s head moves a full five inches away from the target on the backswing.

Here’s a good way to think about this: Your head is in one box at the start of the swing, and it moves back into another box, away from the target, at the top of the swing.

Don’t fake the Y Factor

Many high-handicappers think all they have to do on the backswing is get the club to parallel at the top. But that can be deceiving. Here are three backswing “death moves” that will drain your swing of power.

The Lift-and-Lock and the Reverse Pivot (far left) are common among players who think they have to keep the head still as they swing.

Here, without a club, I demonstrate a different problem: The Rollover. It’s a mistake typical of players trying to increase the Y Factor. They rotate and move into the right side well–but they overdo it. The right leg collapses, the weight rolling to the outside of the right foot.

A big Y Factor here is useless, because your body hasn’t coiled–it’s just swayed. Instead, keep your right leg flexed but firm on your backswing.

One-arm drill: Your left elbow points away from the target

This drill, which I use at our schools, will prevent you from cheating on your Y Factor. With the club in your right hand, address the ball. Now bring the club back. Feel your right arm pull your torso around until your left elbow points behind your right foot. Keep your right knee flexed but firm. Point your left knee just behind the ball at the top. Get your left shoulder under your chin. Make sure you rotate your upper body, don’t just lift the club with your right arm. If that’s all you do, your left elbow won’t point behind the ball, and you’ll lose your Y Factor.

Y Factor + X Factor = power to spare

Now you’re ready to see how your Y Factor contributes to the X Factor.

The X Factor measures how much more the shoulders turn than the hips at the top of the swing. Here you can see that my shoulders have turned about 90 degrees from my set-up position, while my hips have turned just 50 to 55 degrees. That means my upper body is coiled like a spring, ready to release a lot of power.

So how does the Y Factor factor in? It creates my shoulder turn. Remember that my left shoulder started about even with my left foot. Now it’s almost over my right foot, along with my head. Both have moved back well away from the target. With a firm right leg, this Y Factor is going to translate into a big X Factor–and that will make power a bigger factor in your game.


Widen your stance

Tom Blake

Fairfield, Conn.


Blake: I had a pretty narrow stance, and when I tried to move back over my right foot, I felt as if I was losing my balance.

Jim’s advice: A wide stance is essential for a big Y Factor. With the driver, your heels should be set wider than your shoulders. Blake: After I widened my stance, I took a big turn, felt more balanced and hit it better.

COPYRIGHT 2001 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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