By Garrett Johnston
One of the more energetic people in professional golf, Christina Kim is the life of the party. So, it’s no wonder, with her bubbly personality and relatable attitude, she was given an opportunity to commentate for PGA Tour Live last summer – and now she’s started a podcast with friend and golf writer, Alan Shipnuck, entitled, “Full Send with Christina Kim & Alan Shipnuck”. The three-time LPGA Tour winner is also playing full-time on the LPGA Tour, so there’s much to balance. The California-native has plenty of helpful tips for our practice routine right here.
Golf Range Magazine: How much have you enjoyed commentating for PGA Tour Live?
I try not to think of new things as challenges. This commentary is so much fun. It gives me such an adrenaline rush. I’m just watching golf, and trying to provide an insight and perspective to the audience. I’m cognizant of not pressing the issue with something disingenuous, and staying true to who I am. I’m like a kid in the candy store, and I’m so lucky to be given this cool opportunity.
Golf Range Magazine: What do you notice about the way amateurs warm up on the range and how they can improve?
The first thing I notice is they’re at the range ten minutes before their tee time – they grab their driver and start wailing away. I think the best way for recreational golfers to warm up is to start with some wedges and work on tempo and rhythm, and figure out where and how the club is bottoming out. Start by hitting a couple of pitches to get your body warmed up and feel your body start to move. Gradually work your way up. The wedge shots really help us get our rhythm and flow going.
From there, you’ve got to hit a couple of irons – you can’t just go straight to the driver. I used to do that when I was young because I was always very strong and flexible, and I loved hitting the driver. The older and more experienced I’ve gotten, I’ve realized you need to go through the bag. Once you hit a few mid irons and long irons, and your body is loose and relaxed, then you can get to the driver.
Golf Range Magazine: What’s the length and focus of your warm up?
I warm up for about an hour. Before I even go to the range, I’m on the putting green working on short putts. I’ll put down a chalk line and use tees and ball-markers just to get my eyes seeing what a straight putt looks like. Your eyes can look at the line a little bit differently every day. So, in order to really train your eyes, you have to develop these habits. Even if you put an alignment stick down, stand square to it and try to get your putter head perpendicular, so that you can get a true idea of what square is. From there, the rest of the game starts to feel a little bit easier, because you know in your mind what square is. I hit putts for 15-20 minutes and then I go to the range for about a half hour. I’ll work on a couple of speed putts right before I go to the tee.
Without fail, before I go to the tee, I always finish with six made putts. These can be three-footers, five-footers, eight-footers – there’s no rhyme or reason. If I’m putting great, then I’ll hit six eight-footers in a row; and if I’m putting poorly and need to see a ball go into the hole, then I’ll hit six three-footers. This way I’ll know that I made six putts in a row – let’s get this round going!
Golf Range Magazine: How do we know that we’re ready to start our round?
The last club I usually hit on the range is my driver, and I know I still have ten to twelve minutes before my tee time once I leave the range for the putting green. I think that you need to confirm to yourself how you want to think on the greens that day. Think about your round, usually 42-47 percent of your strokes each round come on the putting green. So, if you feel more comfortable with your putts, then you can start to feel more comfortable with every club in your bag. Finish your range session by hitting two really good drives, hold your finish like you’re having a fancy photo shoot and pay attention to what you’re doing. It is about quality over quantity. You can hit eight drives in five minutes or you can hit six good ones, learn more and get a better feel for what you’re doing when you’re hitting your driver.
Golf Range Magazine: What alignment aids should we work with during our range sessions?
Realistically, you only need one aid. You can debate between an alignment stick or a chalk line because they both can be used in so many helpful ways. You have them down the line toward your target and set up perpendicular to your stance. There are many things you can do with each.
What’s some good bunker practice for our warm-up?
First, enjoy the process of warming up – enjoy the bunker warm up – enjoy the driving range. It doesn’t have to feel like a chore. In the practice bunkers, draw a line perpendicular to your target line one to two inches behind the ball, and try to hit that line with your practice shots. This will help you see where your club is bottoming out, and when you’re using your club’s bounce. More often than not, I see a lot of amateurs get in a bunker and get really steep with their shots. Instead, you want to open up your body, open up the club face and hit the shot.
A good bunker drill entails you grabbing a handful of sand and putting it on your club face. Set up to your shot and keep the sand on the club face for as long as you can. Feel like you’re throwing it over your shoulder, and that’s going to get your hands and club face open, so you can really scoop underneath the ball.
That should help you with the overall motion of the bunker shot. In the bunker you want to feel like you’re really rotating your wrist. You want to feel like you’ve got the logo of your glove pointing toward the sky. From there, you’ll see how much loft you have coming in and you’ll be able to use the bounce to get the ball up in the air easily. You want the ball forward in your stance and you want to be wide with your stance and your swing. Amateurs often do not finish their swing in bunkers. The most important thing is to always have smooth acceleration and finish your swing with a bunker shot.
Garrett Johnston has covered 30 major championships in person. He also hosts the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast with players and media.