JACK NICKLAUS: Throughout my career, a lot has been said and written about my not resting the clubhead on the ground behind the ball. I often would sole it lightly, but there were times when I didn't ground it at all, mostly with an iron or fairway wood when I thought it might cause the ball to move. Or with my putter on windy days. You never want the ball to change position while addressing it--golf is hard enough without incurring penalty strokes.
Usually, especially with the driver, I would sole the club lightly and then un-weight it. Why? When I felt the club resting on the ground, my grip and arms were too relaxed. By un-weighting the club--hovering it off the ground as I'm doing above--I had to firm up my grip pressure just enough. Once I did that, everything seemed ready, and my hand and arm pressure felt uniform. I was then able to take the club back smoothly without fear of stubbing the club in the grass behind the ball.
Starting back with the clubhead on the ground forces you to apply too much tension to "unplug" it, resulting in a jerky takeaway and tightening your hands, forearms and body. Also, if you start with the club grounded, the natural tendency is for it to return to that spot at impact--in other words, you're pre-setting a fat shot. So un-weighting helps ensure solid contact.
JIM FLICK: I'm reminded of what the legendary player and teacher Paul Runyan described as "measuring out" or "underreaching" at address. Paul contended that if you didn't sole the club but held it just above the ground, and then kept your grip tension and spine angle constant throughout your swing, you would always hit the ball cleanly.
This principle is especially true for pitch shots, but it also holds for irons, fairway woods and, yes, the driver. And with today's fairways mowed so tightly, it really helps you make perfect contact. You want the club to return to the ball in a precise manner every time.
Jack alludes to tension in the hands and arms. You want just enough in your hands to hold the club firmly, but not so much that your wrists and forearms restrict the natural squaring of the club through the strike. Practice gripping the club securely in the fingers without tensing your arms. Hovering the club at address gives you this perfect feel for the clubhead while helping you avoid excessive tension throughout the swing. Your shots will be more consistent with less effort.
NICKLAUS writes articles only for Golf Digest.
FLICK, a longtime Golf Digest Teaching Professional and PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer, worked with hundreds of amateurs and tour players including Jack Nicklaus.