Keeping It Social with Cathy Kim, PGA
By Kent Paisley
Cathy Kim, PGA, at the golf course.
When players search out lessons, they often search for answers to typical golf swing issues: Stop hooking. Stop slicing. Stop chunking. When Cathy Kim, PGA, got her first lesson at the age of 10, she got more than just advice: she got a life mission.
Kim’s first lesson came from Dave Johnson, PGA, the head of instruction at the then Mountain Shadows Golf Club in Rohnert Park, Calif. Since then, Kim has become the Director of Instruction at Baltimore Country Club and has her lessons seen worldwide from the substantial social media following she’s built from her no frills advice videos she consistently posts on her channels.
“It was through that kind of kindness,” Kim said, “where it obviously went a really long way for me, because that has always been my inspiration to do what I do now.”
Kim always knew where the money came from for her to play golf. Her parents worked at a dry cleaning business, allowing her to chase the game. She played on a full-ride scholarship at Western Washington University and competed professionally before deciding to become a PGA Professional. All along, her goal for the sport remained steadfast.
“My mission for golf,” Kim explained, “has always been to diversify the sport and treat it and be able to create golf as an equal access sport, regardless of where you come from, how much money you might have or not have."
“So I saw social as more of an opportunity to be able to grow the game.”
Kim dove headfirst into social media without any video production background. She started with Instagram, where she now has amassed nearly 40,000 followers. Kim generally uses themes for her videos, from a “What’s in my Bag” series in 2019 to “Golf Glossary 101” she’s used recently. Kim’s topics are informed by what her students are asking her about, recognizing there can be a gap from what other social instructors post to some baseline-level questions that newcomers might not know.
“If this person has this kind of question for this,” Kim explained, “for their skill level, then clearly other people within the same skill level are going to have the same questions.”
@cathykimgolf Easy guide to ball positioning #golf #golftips #fypシ #fyp #golftok #foryoupage ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim
Kim joined TikTok in 2020, recognizing the value that the younger demographic and its search function could help her reach audiences she hadn’t connected with before. With nearly 10,000 followers built there along with her Instagram and YouTube accounts, Kim’s created a social teaching golf juggernaut.
She tries to keep her content broader and not too technical as Kim follows her coaching mantra: swing your swing. It's built from understanding that most people aren't investing the time into the game that tour pros might, and that players' physical statures don't equate to a cookie-cutter teaching approach.
“For me personally,” Kim said, “growing up and learning how to play golf, I'm not very tall. I'm like five, two on a good day. And I have like short little legs, and the instructors that I went to were trying to teach me golf swings that didn't work with my body. It was just never maintainable."
"Having personally gone through that process, it definitely opened my eyes as an instructor to make sure that not only is a swing change maintainable long term, but that the person has to be comfortable with it too.”
Kim's social media channels have impacted her beyond the golf course. She's chatted and given lessons to former NFL players, baseball players, entertainers, actors and appeared in commercials. But some of the most meaningful moments are when people who came from similar means as herself growing up reach out.
“I'll have parents message me,” Kim said, “and they'll say, Hey, you know, we don't have enough money for our kid to take off lessons, but she's been watching your stuff, and she's been learning through your stuff, thank you so much for that.
“That right there is enough for me to do this forever.”
@cathykimgolf The best chipping tip to improve your chips! #fyp #fypシ #Totinos425 #ByeByeSundayBlues #foryoupage #golftiktok #didyouknow #tipsandtricks @pxg ♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] - Elliot Van Coup
Scrolling through the comments section, one sees the patience with which Kim responds to questions. While wary of getting too technical so as not to dole out advice that fits a swing she hasn't seen, it's as close as she can give back to the game as Johnson did for her.
“I never forget where I come from,” Kim said, “and if it wasn't for people like Dave that just was willing to lend his time to some little Korean kid. And be that kind PGA professional, I probably would actually not even be doing what I'm doing.”