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The Loop

Jim McLean's new X-Factor

October 16, 2010

The subject of the X-Factor in golf has been a hot-button topic for years. The idea and name was invented by Jim McLean more than 15 years ago, and it's probably the most recognizable concept in golf instruction since Ben Hogan's Five Lessons. McLean took exception to some statements golf instructor Kip Puterbaugh made about the X Factor in the October issue of Golf Magazine. Puterbaugh argued that the original X-Factor swing with minimal hip turn and maximum shoulder turn, as modeled by Tiger Woods, is a flawed concept and that most golfers would do better to turn their hips as much as they can, using Jack Nicklaus as the model. He calls it the "Anti-X-Factor." See McLean's comments below.

--Roger Schiffman, Golf Digest Managing Editor

*McLean: *The article was a joke. Why? Because Kip Puterbaugh wrote that Jack Nicklaus had a 60-degree hip turn. Anyone who has read The X Factor book or watched my DVDs knows that the 60-degree hip turn he recommended is actually the "model number" used for hip turn (page 45 in the book--hips between 40 and 65 degrees). Also inside the book there are illustrations that show the model numbers being 100 degrees of shoulder turn combined with 60 degrees of hip turn--a 40-degree gap. Since 1992 we have learned that some tour pros have a gap of even less than 40 degrees.

*Editor's note: Because Jack Nicklaus is mentioned as the model for both viewpoints, we asked Jim Flick, who has coached Nicklaus since 1990, if Jack ever thought about restricting his hips in the backswing. Here's what Flick said: "Jack does not believe in the concept of consciously restricting the hip turn. He allowed his hips to react to the swinging of his arms going back. And the amount of arm swing and hip turn was dictated by the club he was swinging--the least for a wedge and the most for a driver."

Back to McLean:* Nicklaus did restrict the turn of the hips by keeping flex in the right knee on the backswing. The X Factor states this acts as a governor to overturning. If you maintain right knee flex you can't really overturn. If you straighten the right knee you can turn much more! Pros like Kip Puterbaugh periodically take a shot at The X Factor. Usually they use The X Factor name as if they invented it. Then they use different ideas, and always wrong ideas, to write their all-new article.  I say always wrong because I have not seen one correct. Years ago, Peter Kostis wrote a cover piece about The New X Factor and had three fundamental points.  One was keeping the right heel on the ground (totally incorrect; almost zero tour players do this with a driver; 95% of all tour players have air under the right heel at impact), one was having the right knee move to a certain point even with the ball by impact (again nowhere near a fundamental), and one was to spin the left hip as fast as possible from the top (again totally wrong--nobody does this on the PGA Tour).

Why do these teachers use The X Factor?  One reason: It's a universal golf term.  Instant credibility. All golfers have heard of The X Factor for golf.  Interestingly, I wrote it.  First in three cover articles, then I produced a top-selling VHS videotape, then I wrote the book (which Puterbaugh acknowledged in Golf Magazine....often I am not even credited with The X Factor when it is used in articles). I've had to call TPI to have them credit me when they have used The X Factor.  After the book came out I did a 10-part series (of 30-minute TV shows) for Golf Channel and then did the X Factor II DVD in 2004, with Dr. Rob Neal doing a segment on biomechanics.*

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I believe The X Factor is the first book written totally on body positions and motions. I did it through video observations on the turning points in the golf swing and the amount of lateral movements. Then I brought in SportSense for recording accurate numbers in 1992. I have continued the research through computer technology and with Dr. Neal on biomechanics.

It is very difficult to stump me on any part of body motion or on The X-Factor. It is frustrating to get emails, phone calls and letters from people who read about The X- Factor when I see the information is misconstrued or just dead wrong.

*Editor's note: If anyone else has a thought or comment on the subject of hip turn versus shoulder turn, we'd love to hear it.

(Photo by J.D. Cuban)