Jessica Rose

ScienceShot: Golf Is All About the X (and S) Factor

Golfers can spend years honing their swings, but now it seems there are just a few key traits that separate amateurs from the pros. Researchers used eight digital cameras to record 3D videos of 10 professional and five amateur male golfers in action. Then, they measured several parameters, including the "S factor" (tilt of the shoulders) and the elusive "X factor" (rotation of hips relative to the shoulders), which is considered vital for power generation. Compared with the amateurs, the pros had S and X factors that were greater—often by as much as 10 degrees—and more consistent. Although previous studies have examined the biomechanics of golf, this latest study, published online today in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, is thought to be the first to analyze rotational biomechanics throughout the swing. According to the researchers, the results could help golfers strike balls harder, with less risk of injury.

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