I first heard of hovering the club at address when reading ”Lesson Tee” by Jack Nicklaus. He liked how it freed up his takeaway and alleviated the likelihood of being called for causing the ball to move at address. He even did it with the putter. The late Jim Flick advocated “un-weighting” the club prior to commencing the swing. Brian Manzella told me that he noticed a trend on tour of mini-hovering all clubs at address.
I have hovered the club at address since my formative years but never gave it any serious thought until I began teaching. Aside from the long accepted benefits of relieving tension, smoothing out the takeaway and avoiding penalty strokes, hovering has generally been considered a player preference. I further believe a player’s balance can be greatly influenced by either grounding or hovering the club.
A very common swing error is shifting weight toward the toes during the backswing. This creates multiple complications for the player. A much steeper plane is likely along with the associated shanks, skys, chunks, anti-chunks (tops), etc. There are a number of factors which can contribute to this problem like poor range of motion, posture and balance, but consider this: The arms, hands and club (the “Power Package” as Homer Kelley called it) resting comfortably on the ground have a certain amount of weight that must be disengaged from the ground during the takeaway. That lifting of the club and arms can disturb balance enough to make a golfer shift positions. I have noticed this especially with junior golfers who don’t weigh much.
Supporting the weight of the club at address allows the player to establish a balanced system of body, arms and club prior to the take away and have a much easier time keeping balance and swing shape. I generally suggest lifting the club at address and then steadying the clubhead by very lightly touching the blades of grass behind the ball. This allows the player to find proper balance and distance to the ball with fine adjustments of the feet. I recommend this as part of the address routine with all clubs to players of all levels.