Who Are They?

The Pro Golf Tour's Biggest Hitters 1

We are used to seeing the statistics of players on the professional tours, and the one statistic that most people look for first as a measure of a golfer's ability is driver distance.

We are all aware that this does not equate to necessarily good scoring, but similar to having the fastest lap in a motor race, there is a certain amount of credibility from being the golfer with the longest recorded drives in either a tournament or an entire season.

What They Do

The world's longest drivers do not necessarily conform to one particular stereotype of either body shape or swinging characteristics. Possibly the most famous long driver of the modern era is John Daly, nicknamed 'The Wild Thing' which is a rather apt name on three levels. He certainly has a wild golf swing, with a massive over swing at the top and a flailing unbalanced finish position, he is certainly wild off the tee at times and in more recent years, he has adopted a questionable wild dress sense.

Then there are more refined long hitters like Robert Garrigus, who although he takes a very strong grip, his balance and shorter than horizontal position at the top of his swing would not allude to the prodigious distances that he is able to hit the ball.

What Can You Learn?

The Pro Golf Tour's Biggest Hitters 2

One common asset of the longest hitter's golf swings is the ability to create a big X angle. This X angle describes the difference in rotated positions between the hips and the shoulders, when viewed from above.

In the address position, the hips and the shoulders are parallel to each other. During the backswing phase of the golf swing, the shoulders turn against the hips. This describes a position where the shoulders will rotate to around 90 degrees to the target line and the hips will remain more square to the target line. The world's longest hitters are often able to create a bigger than normal X angle, and some are even able to increase the X angle during the downswing by initiating their downswing with a hip turning and opening position which creates an even tighter coil to the upper body. This increases the power, lag and club head speed to the impact phase.

What Should You Avoid?

Being a big hitter takes a certain amount of natural physical flexibility. If you don't possess this, you may never become a long hitter, but instead you should focus on maximising your own potential. Try not to judge your distances by anybody else's but just work on making your own swing as efficient as possible.

Pro Golf Tours Biggest X-Factor Hitters

Pro Golf Tours Biggest X-Factor Hitters

It's no secret that the PGA Tour is filled with golfers who can blast the ball incredible distances through the air. 300-yard drives are commonplace in today's game, which is not something that could have been said just 20 years ago. Of course, the equipment being used has a lot to do with the distances players can achieve, but there is more to it than just the drivers and golf balls. Professional golfers are in better physical condition now than ever before, meaning it only makes sense that they would be able to hit longer drives than their predecessors.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the biggest hitters on the tour today. Specifically, we are going to talk about how the 'X-Factor' used by these golfers is able to help them launch the ball miles down the fairway. The X-Factor is a golf instruction term coined by Jim McLean to refer to the difference in rotation between the hips and the shoulders. The idea is simple – by turning the shoulders more than the hips in the backswing, the player will have more potential energy to apply to the golf ball during the downswing. Most players on the PGA Tour make a great shoulder turn, while turning their hips rather significantly less. This gap between the hips and the shoulders is not something that most amateur golfers achieve, which is part of the reason why so many average golfers struggle with distance.

To outline the way X-Factor can influence distance, we are going to take a look at four of the longest hitters in the game. Each of these players is well-known for their ability to blast long drives, and each has also had plenty of success in terms of winning golf tournaments and building a career on the PGA Tour. The four players in question are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, and Adam Scott. Each of these four players is a major champion, meaning their ability to hit the ball a long distance has helped them reach the pinnacle of the sport. While you might not be contending for a major title anytime soon, learning how to use the X-Factor to your advantage may be able to help you play better golf moving forward.

Of course, it should be pointed out that the X-Factor achieved by these players is just one of many things that they do right. All four are in good physical condition, which means they have plenty of strength and flexibility as they swing the club through the ball. Also, each player has solid mechanics overall, even if they do have their own unique quirks and tendencies (especially in the case of Watson). As you put together your driver swing, it is fine to work on your X-Factor as long as you understand that other pieces of the puzzle must be addressed as well.

Although Bubba Watson is a left-handed player, any instruction tips provided in this article will be written from the right-handed perspective. If you, like Watson, play left-handed, please reverse those tips accordingly.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

If you are a golf fan, you don't need any introduction to Dustin Johnson. Long one of the most talented and powerful players in the game, Johnson finally got his elusive major championship at the 2016 U.S. Open. Of course, Johnson really didn't need a major title to prove he can play this game. One look at his driver swing tells you all you need to know about the ability possessed by this impressive player.

At the top of the backswing, Dustin Johnson is basically a poster for the concept of X-Factor. While his hips have turned somewhat away from the target, which is natural, his shoulders have turned much farther. His left shoulder has turned well beyond the ball, and the shaft of the driver is way past parallel at the top of the swing. You almost don't need to see the rest of the swing to know what is going to happen – just from taking a look at his top-of-the-swing position, you can see that Johnson is about to unload an extremely powerful drive.

While power is great, it isn't going to do much good without the ability to control it precisely. This is where Dustin Johnson separates himself from other powerful players. Rather than spraying it all over the lot, Johnson regularly controls the ball with a little fade that finds more fairways than you would expect for someone who hits it so far. This is a great lesson for amateur golfers to learn from while working on their swings. Even if you are trying to maximize your distance, and there is nothing wrong with that goal, you need to be paying attention to your accuracy as well. Only when those two elements come together will you be able to actually take your game to a new level.

It would be great to copy the backswing turn used by Dustin Johnson to launch massive drives, but that isn't going to be possible for most golfers. Johnson is a great athlete, with height and flexibility that few average players have available. However, that doesn't mean you can't learn from what Johnson is doing. First, you should be focusing on your X-Factor in the backswing, as creating separation between the lower body turn and the upper body turn is certainly helpful. Also, you can learn from the way Johnson leads the downswing with his hands, allowing the club head to hang back for as long as possible. This is another common trait among powerful players. Using plenty of 'lag' in the downswing is a great idea, as it will typically lead to long and straight shots which fly high up into the sky.

As a result of his impressive swing, Dustin Johnson is no stranger to the top of the driving distance leaderboards on the PGA Tour. He finished second on the list in 2016, he led the way in 2015, and he was second again in 2014. Without question, he is among the longest hitters in the game today – and on a very short list of the longer hitters in golf history. Fortunately for him, power is not the only weapon he has in the bag. By adding plenty of touch and creativity to his raw power, Johnson is able to work his way around the toughest courses in the world. Now that he has one major championship to his credit, it only seems like a matter of time before more big trophies are placed in his case.

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka

In comparison to some of the other names on this list, Brooks Koepka is a little bit lacking in name recognition. Or, at least, he was. That all changed when he took home the title at the 2017 U.S. Open, cementing himself as a major winner in the golf history books. As anyone who watched Koepka's triumph at Erin Hills can attest, Koepka possesses impressive power. That power was used beautifully to carve up a U.S. Open layout, and in the end there was very little drama left for the final few holes. Still a young player with a long career ahead, Koepka could very well find his way toward the top of the world golf rankings before he hangs up the clubs.

Brooks Koepka doesn't quite keep up with Dustin Johnson in the driving distance category – but he certainly isn't far behind. Koepka regularly finishes in the top ten, routinely hitting the ball more than 300 yards. Not as tall as Dustin Johnson, Koepka is still a remarkable athlete, and clearly keeps himself in excellent physical condition as part of his golf preparation. Of course, as you would expect, his X-Factor at the top of the swing is another area where he compares well with Dustin Johnson and other long hitters. Prior to unleashing the club through an aggressive downswing, Koepka is posed at the top with plenty of separation between his lower and upper body.

If you take a look at a still image of Brooks Koepka at the top of his golf swing, you will see that he uses remarkably little hip turn in the backswing. His hips rotate far less than Dustin Johnson's going back, and his lower body looks almost exactly the same at the top as it did at address. As a result of that limited hip turn, Koepka doesn't quite get his shoulders as far back as Johnson. Not that it matters – he still has great separation between his hips and his shoulders, and there is tons of power waiting to be unloaded through the ball. Even the pickiest golf teacher would have trouble finding anything to complain about when reviewing Koepka's position at the top of the swing.

So what can the average golfer learn from Koepka and the way he swings the driver? The best lesson here is the focus on simplicity. Despite the fact that he can blast the ball almost as far as anyone on Tour, Koepka keeps his swing mechanics extremely simple and repeatable. This trait goes a long way toward explaining why he was able to hold steady while winning a tournament as pressure-packed as the U.S. Open. He didn't have to keep a complicated swing moving in the right direction while nervous, because he has taken as many moving parts as possible out of his swing. What is left is an efficient, simple action that isn't going to go wrong very often. And, importantly, when it does go wrong, it should be rather easy to fix.

Most amateur golfers make the golf swing far more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, this is a difficult game, but you don't have to play it with a bunch of extra moves in your swing that are only going to throw you off track. As you work on your own game, focus on taking out as many moving parts as you can. Basically, if it isn't helping you move the ball toward the target, it needs to go. Taking this approach and attitude to the driving range with you will help to 'trim the fat' from your game. If you stick with this philosophy over the long haul, you will eventually find yourself with a swing that can produce reliable results even when the pressure is on.

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

For many golf fans, the name Bubba Watson is synonymous with distance. The two-time Masters Champion is one of the longest hitters in the world to be sure. Of course, he is also one of the best players in the game overall, as you don't just luck your way into two Green Jackets. In addition to his prodigious power, Watson is also one of the most creative golfers in the game. Bubba Watson has never seen anything he would describe as a straight shot, as he is always finding a way to curve the ball in toward the target. The combination of creativity and raw power makes Bubba one of the most popular players on Tour today.

If you are looking for a traditional, orthodox swing to copy in your game, Bubba Watson is not the right example. There isn't much in Bubba's swing which would be considered 'standard', but that doesn't mean that he's doing anything wrong. The goal of this game is to move the ball from the tee into the hole in as few strokes as possible, and there aren't many players who can handle that task better than Bubba Watson.

The reputation that Watson carries for long driving is not without basis, as the stats back up what you already know to be true. For a full decade, from 2006 – 2016, Watson's worst finish on the driving distance list was 5th. That is an incredible run of consistency, as he has played well enough to remain on Tour for that entire time, while also launching monster drives over and over again. Other names have come and gone from the top of the driving distance charts, but Watson is one name which has stood the test of time. He not only sends the ball into orbit with his driver, he does so round after round, year after year.

You might be surprised to find that Bubba Watson doesn't actually have the biggest X-Factor at the top of his swing, despite his long-standing domination of the driving distance stats. While he makes an enormous shoulder turn going away from the ball, Watson also allows his hips to turn significantly, meaning the separation between the two is not as big as it is for other players. Yes, there is still a gap between the two, but not quite what is seen from a Koepka or Johnson.

The freedom to turn his hips away from the target comes from the fact that Watson allows his lead foot to come up off the ground on the way back. By the time he reaches the top of the swing, only his toe is on the ground – the rest of the foot is up off the turf. This is an unorthodox move in the modern game, but Watson has obviously found a way to make it work brilliantly. Most of his weight is on his back foot during the transition, which is a break from modern golf instruction which tells players to remain as balanced and centered as possible.

So, when looking at such a unique golf swing, what is the lesson that can be learned by the average player? Simple – be yourself on the course. Bubba Watson hasn't allowed modern golf instruction norms to dominate his way of thinking, and he has been highly successful as a result. There are a number of things that most golf teachers would advise against in his swing, and yet he's one of the best golfers in the world. As you build and adjust your own swing, remember that you don't have to do everything by the book. Sure, it is a good idea to stick close to most rules of swing mechanics, but feel free to do your own thing in some areas. A blend of solid fundamentals with your own style is likely to be the winning formula as you look for a repeatable, reliable golf swing.

Adam Scott

Adam Scott

If pressed to select the prettiest golf swing among the professional ranks, many golf fans would likely select Adam Scott. To be sure, the swing Scott has used to build an excellent pro career is one of the best in the world. It is simple, powerful, repeatable, and holds up well under pressure. Another Masters winner, we again here see a player with serious power and the ability to manage that power properly on the course. There have been some struggles throughout his career with the putter, but his golf swing has never been in question – Scott is one of the best ball strikers in the world.

Getting right to the topic at hand, Scott manages to produce an excellent X-Factor at the top of his swing with the driver (and the rest of his clubs, as well). In many ways, his swing is similar to Koepka's, in that there is very little hip rotation while he makes a big turn with this shoulders. Of course, this swing looks nothing like Watson's, as Scott tends to stick very close to the accepted fundamentals of the game. Thanks to an impressive physique and plenty of practice throughout his long career, this visually pleasing swing is able to send the ball down the center of the fairway time after time.

Fitting in with the rest of the group we have highlighted in this article, Adam Scott routinely finds himself up among the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour. He finished 13th in 2016 on the driving distance list, a sure sign that he can still launch tee shots even though he turned pro all the way back in 2000. As long as he can find a way to get his putter to cooperate in the pressure moments, there is no reason Scott can't remain a force at the top of the game for many more years to come.

The importance of physical fitness is something which the average golfer can learn from Adam Scott, as well as the rest of the players on our list. Golf has changed over the last couple decades, as it is now a game which is centered on power. As such, it is more important than ever before that golfers be in good physical condition. It is hard to make good golf swings if you are out of shape. And, even if you can make those swings for a few holes, it will be difficult to keep it up for an entire round without fitness on your side. Of course, if you decide to work on your fitness as a way to improve your performance in golf, be sure to check with your doctor before getting started.

Looking over all four players we have included in this article, it is clear that the X-Factor plays a significant role in the power of each player. All make huge shoulder turns, while some limit their hip rotation more than others. As you work on finding more distance in your own game, be sure to keep the X-Factor in mind. If you can find a way to increase the separation between your shoulders and hips at the top of the swing, you should be able to turn that separation into additional yardage when all is said and done.

Golf is about more than distance, but it sure is fun to send the ball soaring down the fairway and past the drives of your playing partners. In addition to the great feeling of launching a powerful drive, you also get the advantage of playing a shorter approach shot into the green. Use X-Factor to your benefit and you may be able to hit some of your longest-ever drives in the near future. Good luck!