AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was the video heard ’round the Twittersphere, and for all the wrong reasons.
To the cynical, mostly adult-aged golf tweeting audience, Dude Perfect’s missive from Amen Corner represented all the ways in which Augusta National has lost its way.
Augusta National? The same club that once needed an extra push to broadcast its tournament in color? The one that didn’t show the front nine of its golf course on television until the 21st century? The one where folks are prohibited from bringing cell phones and running on-site, among other old-school rules? That Augusta National swung its doors open for a group of heavily sanitized internet trick-shotters? Yeah, sure, and I’ve got some oceanfront property to sell you in Toledo.
But that was precisely what happened. On April 2, two days before the best players in golf arrived in Augusta, the video — titled “All Sports Golf Battle at The Masters” — hit YouTube. In the video, the Dude Perfect crew (plus Bryson DeChambeau) plays hockey, baseball, football, croquet, pool, tennis (and yes, even golf) across the perfectly manicured fairways and greens of the most famous golf course on earth.
Almost immediately, the video was the butt-end of an internet meme — fodder for the day’s worth of golf jokes. Then something even funnier happened: it took off.
To date, the video has 6.25 million views. Check the comments and you’ll find near-universal support for its creation. For a short period of time, it was the number one trending video on all of YouTube. And that’s just in four days.
But Augusta National is well past the point of pandering for clout. In fact, they’ve been past that for the better part of their eight-plus decades in existence. So why’d they open the gates to Magnolia Lane for Dude Perfect? Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley explained during his Masters state of the union Wednesday.
“My first reaction was, who are these guys?” Ridley said with a chuckle. “I’ve never heard of them.”
Quickly, though, the 69-year-old became acquainted. Dude Perfect, he learned, held tremendous weight with young sports fans — a demographic Augusta National has targeted in its efforts to grow the sport. A video at Augusta National could be a powerful (and effective) tool for bringing the sport to a younger audience.
“It was really part of our continuing effort to be relevant to different age groups,” he said. “Going in we knew that this group had 57 million followers on YouTube, and that sort of got my attention.”
But it’s one thing to earn Augusta National’s attention, it’s another to earn its trust.
“It was something that I got comfortable with very quickly,” he said. “No. 1, these are very upstanding young men who it was obvious to me in some discussions, some third-party discussions of people who had been dealing with them and things they actually said on video. They had the utmost respect and reverence for Augusta National.”
After a lengthy back and forth, the two parties moved forward with the video. They haven’t looked back since.
“The results of the video have been great,” Ridley said. “I think it accomplished what we wanted to. I’ve heard from a number of my law partners who have teenage children who said, ‘This is great. My kids want to go out and play golf.’ That’s sort of the idea.”
So maybe Augusta National has lost its way. Or maybe it’s just found a new one.
“We’ll look at more things like that,” Ridley said. “But always through a lens of our culture and respect for the game and respect for the institution in this place.”