‘One isn’t better or worse’: Pro breaks down differences between the steep and shallow pitch shot

Michael Kim chips at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson.

Michael Kim weighed in on the steep vs shallow short shot debate.

Sam Hodde/Getty Images

If you’re not following Michael Kim on social media yet, you’re missing out.

The veteran PGA Tour pro has built a rather loyal following on Twitter through his takes on golf current events, recaps of each tournament and behind-the-scenes info on being a Tour pro. He also hasn’t been shy to share his takes on golf instruction or provide tips for amateurs.

His latest post falls under the latter two categories as Kim is offering his take on one of the hottest debates in golf instruction right now: To be shallow or steep with your pitch shots?

Keeping the club on a shallow plane is key for amateurs according to GOLF Top 100 Teacher to Watch and Tour short game coach Parker McLachlin, who’s also known as the Short Game Chef on social media.

But, fellow PGA Tour coach Joe Mayo helped reinvent Viktor Hovland’s short game by preaching for a steeper angle of attack around the greens.

On Saturday, Kim offered some tips and videos explaining how to hit both shots and where he might use one or the other. He was careful not to take a side on which one is the best.

“I’d like to make the point that one isn’t better or worse. It’s much more WHEN to do it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Each has properties that is better in certain situations than others. Think of it more like draw vs fade not an either/or. The shallow is better for when you want to hit a softer med-med high trajectory with a little bit of spin and it lands nice and soft. Steep is much better when you want something a little lower, a little more skip then spin, ball first solid contact. It’s prob a better motion for most bump and runs. I don’t think shallow is needed on bump and runs. Also much better way motion out of the rough. Certain lies do better with shallow, some do better with steep.

“It’s up to you to try and find what works for you.”

The shallow shot

Kim likens the shallow shot to an underhand toss, explaining it will come out with a medium to a medium-high trajectory that lands softly with a little bit of spin. He says he uses this shot from tight lies in the fairway when he may not have a ton of green to work with.

Setup: Slightly open stance. Weight 50/50 on each foot. Clubface open. Shaft vertical (Ie. hands above the clubhead at address). Ball position middle.

Swing: Power source from turn, little arms and wrist movement. Keep wide arc.

Kim says the benefit of the shallow swing is that it’s very forgiving.

“Maybe 30 percent of the time, I actually hit a little behind the ball,” he said. “But that’s OK because the club is coming in so shallow, it hits the ground and using the bounce a little bit, it just pushes the ball up a little higher. And it’s really forgiving that way and one of the reasons I find it so useful on the golf course.”

Kim then explained that amateurs struggle with the shallow shot because they’re used to using their wrists and arms. So Kim offered a video on the “robot drill” to help practice and reinforce the technique. Essentially, you hit a pitch shot with your arms and wrists locked out in order to feel where the swing path should be.

The steep shot

For the steep shot, Kim said this shot is basically “a low checker.” He uses this shot out of the fairway when he wants the ball to hit into a slope and then have spin once it gets on top and on the putting surface.

Setup: Open stance. Upper body turned open to match feet. Weight 70/30 on front foot. Clubface open. Shaft leans forward with hands ahead at address. Ball position middle or slightly back.

Swing: Wrist and arm hinge is OK, but not needed. Move head up on downswing to avoid digging. Swing in a “V” shape as opposed to a “U.”

He said the benefit is that the contact is better with more spin because of the steeper angle of attack.

“I get a much crisper contact, a nice thud to it,” Kim said.

While he doesn’t add any wrist or arm hinge, Kim says it’s OK to do so because it can help you increase the angle of attack. Kim says he prefers to keep his arms and wrists out of it to make distance control easier.

So the next time you’re at a practice green, try both the steep and the shallow swings and see which one you like and what situations you can use both.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.