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The Gulf Club

Pro you didn’t know:
Trump Dubai’s Sven Nielsen

The former South African junior representative has just arrived in the UAE after “nine very cold years” plying his trade at Trump Turnberry in Scotland. Golf Digest Middle East sat down with the 28-year-old who is has been lured here as head teaching professional for the U.S. President’s latest creation, Trump International Golf Club Dubai.

For more from Sven, get your February 2017 issue of Golf Digest Middle East today!

Sven. It’s not the most South African name?
I have certainly confused many people over the last few years. Add in my slightly Scottish accent from living on the West coast of Scotland over the last nine years and you have yourself a Scottish-South African hybrid. My parents are South African, but my grandparents were Dutch and German.

Home club?
The first club I joined at the age of six was Benoni Lake Golf Club, but I played most of my junior golf at ERPM, a parkland golf course close to my house.

Your favourite golfer?
Has to be Tiger Woods, from what he has achieved in the game to what he has done for the game of golf. I think every touring professional golfer knows they can thank Tiger for that extra couple of zeros in their bank accounts. But also how he strived to keep getting better, even when he was winning all the time, to change his swing completely to keep improving, more than once.

Tiger during the 1997 US Masters – Getty Images

Who’d make up your dream fourball ?
Tiger and Nicklaus, just so I can ask them, ‘so, who is the best ever? ‘ And Henrik Stenson – one of the nicest guys I’ve met, with a great sense of humour!

And your favourite course?
Apart from Trump International here in Dubai? The re-designed Ailsa Course at Trump Turnberry is a favourite. It will certainly take a lot for any course worldwide to beat the new re-designed Ailsa! It has everything a golfer could ask for.

Bucket list golf experience?
Augusta, just because of The Masters, from the pristine fairways to the stimp 14 greens. It’s a course I’ve always wanted to play and it will remain on top of the bucket list until I get the honour to play it.

Best round?
I think the best feeling I have ever had after a round was the first time I broke 70 on my home course when I was 13. I shot 66 in a members tournament and I remember all the adult gathering around the 18th as the word spread around the course that I was quite a few under par. It was the first time I could picture how it would feel coming down the stretch in a major tournament having to par it to win. The lowest was 64 a few times at my home course.

Nielsen spent nearly 10 years at The Open Championship venue – Image courtesy Trump Turnberry

Best win?
Representing South Africa as a Junior Springbok was a great honour, and being the only unbeaten player in the three days was a pretty good feeling too!

Favourite sport outside of golf?
Rugby. It’s a South African thing I guess. That with a braai and we are happy! But I do enjoy watching tennis too, Djokovic has been a favourite for years – another great athlete with a great sense of humour.

Which begs the question – what’s happened to South African rugby?
It’s painful to even answer this question, especially when the question is coming from an All Black (supporter). I just think we need to change structures from school levels all the way to the top and too many South Africans are playing abroad. We will be back, don’t you worry!

Which tournament do you dream of winning?
The Green Jacket! Everything about the Masters is magical…the course, the jacket, driving up Magnolia Lane. I’d like to copy Henrik Stenson and play ‘Ice Ice Baby’ from Vanilla ice on the radio while driving up…but I’m sure the members there would feel much different if it was me doing it.

What do you like to do on a day off?
I like to play golf. I know, you would think I would like time away from the game, but no, I love the game! Always trying new things! The friends I played with it Scotland always asked me ‘So Sven, what is your swing thought for today’ as they knew I always tinkered with my own swing and technique striving to improve and see what works and what doesn’t. But then again, if I don’t tinker, how would I know if it works or not? If not golf, family and friends are important to me, so I spend time with them.

How long where you at Turnberry and what was the standout highlight?
I was at Turnberry for nine years, almost 10. The history and being a part of the team in 2009 when we held the 138th Open. The best experience ever, to have all the best players in the world there practicing weeks before and looking after them was an experience I will never forget. Walking with Tiger for two days inside the ropes was probably the single best golfing memory for me personally!

Nielsen prepares his approach to the par 4 8th hole at Trump Dubai – Image Kent Gray

Give us your early impressions of Gil Hanse’s creation, Trump Dubai?
I love the design and unique qualities of the course Mr Hanse created. He has achieved exactly what he wanted to, a course for all abilities, which will be fun to play. It’s rewarding and challenging at the same time. Some imagination can be used around the links styled greens, with undulations reminding me of the links in Scotland.

What can members and guests expect from a Trump golf experience?
A very high quality customer service experience from a golf and F&B element while playing golf on a challenging but fun course.

 

Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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