AUGUSTA, Ga. — There are certain names we associate with Amen Corner: Hogan. Freddie. Tiger.
After this weekend, it’s time to add a few. How ’bout Tyler, Cory, Coby, Garrett and Cody?!
The times, they are a-changing. This weekend marked the third playing of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. It marked the arrival of Netflix cameras on property for Masters Week. And it marked the drop of a YouTube video unlike any other: Dude Perfect’s “All Sports Golf Battle at the Masters.” That video’s existence is indicative of how some things are changing at Augusta — while other things are exactly the same.
If you haven’t yet seen the video for yourself, the voice of Jim Nantz provides introduction (“Hello friends” and all!) before a sixsome (the aforementioned five plus Bryson DeChambeau) tees off No. 11 at Augusta National. But instead of clubs, their golf bags are filled with a variety of alternative sporting equipment. Over the next 11 minutes they play Nos. 11-13 using frisbees, baseball bats, pool cues and more, with one rule: Once you use an implement, you can’t use it again. One competitor is eliminated per hole and hijinks ensue: Competitors swing and miss. A soccer ball trundles in the water. DeChambeau ends up in Rae’s Creek. And so on.
If your reaction to that previous paragraph is, “Wait, what?” know that you’re not alone. The course famous for secrecy, privacy and banning cell phones is suddenly opening its gates to a bunch of YouTubers? Inviting them to film at Amen Corner?! To hit croquet balls on the greens?!? In some ways this feels like a massive departure for the club, which has never allowed this type of access nor encouraged anything particularly frivolous. Augusta National doesn’t really do collabs.
But in other ways it’s the logical extension to the approach the Masters has been rolling out for years. The club has been expanding its efforts to give the outside world a little taste of the tournament through short films, social media posts and increasingly creative campaigns. It was only four years ago that the tournament posted its final-round broadcasts on YouTube, after all. None of this is done impulsively. None of it is outside its control. At Augusta National, nothing happens suddenly.
“Honestly, we get access to a lot of different things in the sports world,” says Chad Coleman, Dude Perfect’s Chief Brand Officer. “Like, we just filmed a video at SoFi Stadium a couple weeks before the Super Bowl and that was 10 times easier than this.
“But that’s the mystique of Augusta National. That’s the way they are, and that’s a good thing — every year it adds to the allure of the tournament.”
Augusta has mystique and tradition in spades. Dude Perfect has something else, and a whole lot of it: Over 57 million people subscribe to their YouTube channel, making it the largest troupe of its kind. Twenty-four hours after the video was posted, four million people had watched it on the platform. That’s on par with Dude Perfect’s typical viewership; its most recent video, “Unpredictable Trick Shots 2,” racked up nearly 10 million views in two weeks. For comparison, last year’s Masters final round averaged 9.5 million viewers.
Augusta National declined to comment on the video. Well, sort of. They very literally commented on the YouTube video itself — “Hello, friends,” wrote the Masters account, which leads the comment section with 10,000 likes — but didn’t offer official comment on the process itself. Still, GOLF.com spoke with multiple people familiar with the decision-making process that allowed Dude Perfect through its gates.
From Augusta’s perspective, the group of trick-shot artists provided a logical way to reach a younger, more diverse group than typical Masters attendees. The folks involved with running the Masters speak frequently about “growing the game” through initiatives like the Asia-Pacific Amateur or the Latin American Amateur. But those are tournaments for top-ranked golfers, while this was a chance to reach potential golf fans who’d never watched a single shot. The tournament built trust with the Dude Perfect squad over a period of time, inviting them to last year’s Masters and staying in regular communication.
“This was a chance to draw eyeballs who might not have ever watched a golf video,” Coleman said. “We wanted to do something that would showcase some of the things that matter at Augusta while also pushing the envelope enough to draw people in.”
Rather than laying down the law and explaining what was off-limits, Coleman said that Augusta encouraged their group to pitch their ideal video and then see how close they could get to making it happen. This level of access is the sort of thing that would have been greenlit by Augusta’s membership as well as its chairman, Fred Ridley. The fact that the video is now public suggests the membership and its chairman were amenable to the idea.
It was important for both sides to connect the video to the Masters itself. Nantz’s voice was a last-minute addition (“Augusta National is able to work their magic when they can,” Coleman explained). “Masters Facts” pop up periodically. And the inclusion of a Masters competitor led Dude Perfect to DeChambeau, who has YouTube dreams of his own and has been a fan of the group for a long time.
“He was great,” Coleman said of DeChambeau. “He was like, ‘You need me there tomorrow?'”
The video was filmed a couple of weeks before tournament play; you can see grandstands already in place. And, to paraphrase someone with close knowledge of the situation, no blades of grass were harmed during production. Unless it came from a frisbee skimming across the green, that is. In hindsight, the frisbees could have been more carefully vetted.
It’s tough to poll the collective internet, but reaction to the video’s release seemed to be generally positive. Viewers praised Augusta’s willingness to be showcased in a different light and not take itself too seriously. Some skeptics, meanwhile, objected that the video felt off-brand for the tournament’s carefully crafted reputation.
No matter which side you fall on, it’s worth noting that this isn’t likely to open any floodgates. Vloggers won’t suddenly be welcomed up Magnolia Lane to try on members’ blazers and play the par-3 course. Instead, our exposure to the course will be restricted, as it has been, to one short stretch in April, when it captures the eyes of the sporting world.
And on YouTube, of course.