Meet The Pros
GET TO KNOW OUR PGA PROFESSIONALS AT DREAMLAND GOLF CLUB
MICHAEL SWEENIE, PGA ADVANCED GOLF PROFESSIONAL
Head Professional at Dreamland Golf Academy & Titleist Brand Ambassador
“I focus on a holistic, individualistic method in coaching all standards of players from beginner to elite level, finding a way to maximise performance and, most importantly of all, ensure that every golfer enjoys the improvement process.”
Michael joins Dreamland from Turnberry in Scotland, one of the world’s leading championship resorts and four-time Open Championship venue. There he played a pivotal role in developing the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy, as Head Teaching Professional, which is now one of Europe’s leading performance facilities.
Michael started playing golf at the age of 13 and quickly fell in love with the game. From the age of 16 he represented Lanarkshire’s boys and men’s team – also part of the SGU squad – and by the age of 17 his handicap was scratch. He went onto compete on the amateur circuit before turning professional at Turnberry.
Michael’s coaching philosophy is based on a holistic approach, coaching all levels from beginners to touring professionals. Michael is a great believer in that your swing should be based on your physical capabilities, and will structurally test each individual to find their optimum swing.
Why did you want to come to Dreamland Gold Club, Baku? For the challenge of setting up IMG’s first European golf school. Developing and promoting the game of golf in Azerbaijan is something that I look forward too.
What sets this Academy apart from others you’ve visited? The Academy at Dreamland Golf Club is a world-class teaching facility. In one place we have all the equipment and training aids required to not only teach beginners and amateur golfers, but it’s an environment where a tour professional would feel comfortable in coming to work on their game.
What lessons to you teach at Dreamland? I have created a variety of teaching packages for all levels of golfer, for individuals, groups and families, along with a junior academy and on-course tuition.
What is the first thing you tell new golfers? Good golf starts with a good grip…
How many lessons do you need to take before playing the golf course? This depends on the individual but normally I would recommend at least five individual lessons, then going on-course for the first time under the guidance of a PGA professional.
What’s your philosophy of the golf swing? Firstly, establish good fundamentals. If you can get this right from the start it’s a massive benefit for the future. Secondly, I believe it is essential to understand the individual’s physical capabilities and build a swing around this. We are all different shapes and sizes so there is no such thing as a perfect swing but, in my opinion, Ben Hogan’s technique is as close to perfection as possible.
Who was your inspiration growing up? Tiger Woods without a doubt! After watching Tiger play I couldn’t wait to get out and try the sport. From a coaching perspective it would have to be Ben Hogan.
What has been your best round of golf so far? Sixty-three (-9) at Torrance House Golf Club.
Now you are a performance coach do you still play golf regularly? Yes, I still try and play at least twice a week. I love playing and practicing golf and, like every other player, I am always looking for ways of improving… can’t always play to the standard I used to, but my competitive nature will never leave me!
ANTON SAMSONOV, PGA PROFESSIONAL
Russian Golf Professional, British PGA Academy graduate
“With golf now back to Olympics we need to do as much as we can to promote this kind of sport in Azerbaijan. As a PGA Golf Professional it is my passion to promote golf and let people see that it is an active and really interesting sport. I will make sure that you enjoy the teaching process and that excitement continues on to the golf course”.
Anton joins Dreamland Golf Club from Moscow, Russia where he worked with several of the leading golf clubs such Moscow Country Club (The first 18-hole golf course in Russia which has also hosted Challenge & European Tour events). At Pestovo Golf & Yacht Club, working with PGA Professional Stephen Dundas, Anton completed his British PGA Qualification and in doing so joined a group of only 7 fully qualified professionals in Russia. In recent years he has enjoyed success opening the first public access course – Forest Hills Golf Club which is renounced for its fantastic hospitality and customer service.
Why did you want to come to Dreamland Golf Club, Baku? I first met Phil Jones when he opened Zavidovo PGA National Russia in 2013. We were all actively involved in promoting golf around Moscow and growing the number of players. I followed the construction of Dreamland and Phil’s move to Azerbaijan which resulted in me bringing a group of golfers from Moscow to Baku. Clearly impressed by the entire Development, Golf Course and Academy, I knew that I could help grow the game in Azerbaijan and wanted to become part of the team.
How did you promote golf in Russia? I started playing golf when I was ten years old, at that time no one knew anything about the sport and what a great game it is. After many years of playing in golf tournaments, hosting events and completing my PGA education in Birmingham UK, I had a good understanding of how we could make the game more accessible and popular.
We started by making a lot of events, in schools, local evening classes, attending exhibitions, tournaments anything to answer the question What is Golf?. Through my own YouTube channel SamsonovGolf, I started to expand on the next question which is always Why Golf? through a series of clips and short video’s I could show the game, the great courses we have, and explain the benefits of playing golf in my native Russian Language.
What sets Dreamland Golf Club Academy apart from others you’ve visited? Luxury! It’s truly a world class environment to learn or improve your game. Players have chance to not only practice on spacious greens and chipping area’s but also to use the latest technology. Within the IMG performance studio’s we have Flight Scope and V1 Pro software which allows pupils to see their swing and compare it to best golfers in the world. Our second studio has the SAM putting Lab, which I recommend to all players to take a lesson on. The benefit for players in Baku is that with a covered range you can practice all year round – so your 2017 goals and targets can be achieved!
What type of lessons will you be involved with at the Dreamland Golf Academy? The majority of my teaching diary will be introducing group lessons in Russian language not only to local players but the increasing amount of visitors coming from neighboring countries like Russia and Kazakhstan.
How many lessons do you need to take before playing The Dye Championship Course? We aim to pass most of the swing theory within five – six lessons. If the pupil practices between lessons this time it will be enough to come on the course with me and take their first steps!
What’s your philosophy of the golf swing? Most mistakes come from poor grip and posture – the fundamentals. Working on a more aligned stance, and correct grip is always the top priority. Overtime a players golf swing becomes more individual so that when we use the IMG studio’s and the technology more.
Who was your inspiration growing up? Tiger Woods was the most famous golfer to follow, then David Duval. I love to read stories and watch players such as John Daly (especially how he dresses!!)
What has been your best round of golf so far? 70 (-1) at Secret Valley Golf Course in Paphos, Cyprus
Given your role in Golf Operations how much time do you actually get to play? I try to play as much as I can, with bringing more tournaments, staff training and planning events sometimes there are not enough time to get on the golf course as much as we like. It is a great way to meet the members so I hope to be on a golf buggy soon!
Assistant Golf Coach at Dreamland Golf Academy
“Golf is a sport for everyone. You can start at any age from toddler to super senior. My aim is to make it fun and exciting, and help you overcome any challenges to be the best golfer you can be.”
How did you start to play in Azerbaijan?
My first introduction to golf was in 2013 when I was invited to indoor golf lounge called “Golfland”. This was my first time ever seeing a golf club and had not even heard much about golf before this as it was not available in Azerbaijan. My first time on an actual golf course was in 2014 when TNAGC officially opened and from there I was hooked on the game!
What do you love the most about playing golf?
Due to the fact that golf is so new in our country I love coaching and introducing the game to new people every day – from any age. At the same time I still love to play and practice and strive to improve my own ability. I see golf as a challenging sport but one that can very quickly become addictive. I also enjoy the fact that golf can be played by all people of any age making this sport more accessible for families.
What do you believe helped you improve and learn the most about golf over the last couple of years?
The fact that for the last two years I have been working with PGA Professionals has given me great access to learn correctly how to play and coach the game at a good standard – and every day is a new learning experience. For my first year working for the golf federation I was working alongside the National Coach Spencer Henderson who taught me so many of the basics on how to coach junior golfers and introduce SNAG golf in schools throughout Baku. Now for the last 10 months since moving to Dreamland Golf Academy I have worked alongside Michael Sweenie who is Head Golf Professional. Through many hours of shadowing Michael teach students of all ability I have learned so much about the role of a Head Golf Professional – not only from the teaching side which is a huge passion of Michael – but in terms of the management and operational role in running a busy golf academy. We are very fortunate to have world class practice facilities here at Dreamland so I have had great access to use different kinds of teaching equipment. This was first access to seeing a structured development plan. To learn something new someone must be inspired to commit themselves to learning. Having a desire and aspiration to do something I like has helped me to develop at this sport and as a coach. In have learned that in golf you must dedicate yourself to practice time in order to improve – just like many other sports – but golf certainly requires some time to develop onto the golf course.
How do you think SNAG golf can help people start to play?
SNAG means Start New At Golf – something which is very much happening here at Dreamland on a daily basis as we introduce the game to new golfers. SNAG is very useful for developing younger golfers as it allows them to learn the game in a safe and exciting process. It includes bigger and softer balls to hit, lighter clubs with bigger hitting areas so in general it is making the learning process easier for new junior golfers being introduced to the game. SNAG equipment also has many useful training aids to help simplify coaching new golfers and learn fundamental movements skills for golf.
How do you believe the game will grow in Azerbaijan?
I believe we have made great success in growing golf in Azerbaijan over the last 2 years, considering before we had no Azeri Golfers. We now have a group of junior and adults Azeri golfers who are members and continue to play the game on a regular basis. I believe that with the right coaching and support we at Dreamland can continue to develop the game and stick to our long term strategy.
What is the most important aspect in a player swing?
100% the most important aspect in the golf swing is the fundamentals. These are the foundations of learning how to play the game correctly, and with the correct fundamentals any golfer can start to really develop their skills and enjoy the game more. Key aspects include Grip, Aim, Posture etc. I also believe that Michael has taught the importance of having a good short game and dedicating more time to focus on areas around the greens.
Who is your favourite golfer?
I would say from this era John Daly because of his style of relaxed play, his character I find very likeable and when I watched him play in Turkey last year at the Turkish Airlines Open event, I could not believe how good his feel was around the green. I hope I can hit the ball as far as he can one day! I am also a huge fan of Arnold Palmer and what he achieved not only in the game of golf, but how he continued his career and business after playing golf. He will be sadly missed.
Which is your favourite golf course?
My favorite golf course is the Old Course at St.Andrews. I was very fortunate to experience the Old Course in 2015 when I went to St.Andrews to sit my exams for the Level 2 Rules of Golf certification. Playing the most famous golf course in the world was an amazing experience from start to finish and I was overwhelmed by the town of St.Andrews which felt to me like the mecca of golf. It is such a different experience of course to what we have at Dreamland and was my first experience of playing links golf.
Discover the lessons available with Michael and Elshan on our Lessons page. If you already know which one you’re after, simply complete the booking column on the right and we’ll get back to you with confirmation.