Investigation: Is 'Dilly Dilly' really banned from the Masters?

AUGUSTA, Ga. — An extensive, exhaustive Yahoo Sports investigation – actually, we just talked to about a dozen Masters security personnel – revealed that there is no specific list of phrases that, if shouted, will get a fan thrown out of the tournament this weekend.

It was reported, apparently erroneously, that Augusta National had generated a list of phrases, most notably “Dilly, Dilly” – a term of approval made famous by a Bud Light commercial – that, if shouted, would result in immediate and automatic banishment from the grounds.

No one interviewed by Yahoo Sports – a group that ranged from volunteer marshals to full-time security – had seen or been told of any list, although they had heard of the day-old “Dilly, Dilly” legend. These men were heroically willing to risk their jobs to come forward and debunk the story to Yahoo Sports as long as they remained anonymous, because they are not authorized to speak for Augusta National.

“There’s no list,” one said quietly.

The story took off Tuesday after a reporter for a Scottish golf website tweeted out that he heard there was a list, and “Dilly, Dilly” was on it. True or not, Bud Light jumped to the defense of its slogan and promised to “make 1,000 Dilly Dilly shirts that shall be delivered to Georgia in time for the festivities.” The theory was, even if you can’t shout Dilly, Dilly, you can wear the T-shirt.

If there is an official grouping of banned phrases, the men on the front lines have not been informed of it. They said “vocal” security is no different this year than any other, and they have been provided no new instructions.

That said, even if there is no list, they didn’t recommend shouting “Dilly, Dilly,” “Mashed Potato,” “Baba Booey” or any of the other phrases popular – and overdone – by golf galleries around the world. This is Augusta National, not the Phoenix Open.

“It started with ‘Get in the Hole,'” said one security guard. “They [we assume Augusta National is the ‘they’ here] didn’t like that.”

Security walks with Tiger Woods during a practice round at Augusta National in 2015. (Getty)
Security walks with Tiger Woods during a practice round at Augusta National in 2015. (Getty)

Patrons, as fans are referred to here, are allowed to be loud and enthusiastic, but within reason. Security is tasked with rooting out those that are being disruptive rather than just passionate. Yelling “Get in the Hole” from the tee box of a par five might get a hole punched in your badge – two punches and you’re gone – or it might get you heaved out of the course with no warning. Same with a group chant.

“If four guys yell it in unison, that’s a problem,” a guard said.

“Saying anything that’s disruptive to the golfers is not permitted,” said another marshal.

While “disruptive” behavior is defined a little like pornography – you know it when you see it – the club follows an ethos of Bobby Jones, the club’s founder and “president in perpetuity” (despite passing away in 1971).

“In golf, customs of etiquette and decorum are just as important as rules governing play,” reads an epigraph from Jones that is printed on Page 1 of the Masters Patron Guide.

Jones further notes that Augusta’s patrons have a reputation as “the most knowledgeable and considerate in the world,” a designation that would not appear to include the screaming of, say, “Dilly Dilly” or “Baba Booey!”

The Spectator Guide further notes that “although cheering and positive patron responses to great play are encouraged, unsolicited or consistent calls from the gallery are prohibited.” And for those who prefer their politics and sports separate, fear not: “Protests of all types are forbidden.”

“We believe that [etiquette is] important, not only here at the Masters, but in every tournament,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday. “I know there’s been some incidents [at other tournaments] recently, but we take that part of our policies very seriously, and we will always take action to make sure that all of our policies are enforced, including that one.”

Security enforcement at Augusta is as byzantine and multilayered as the American judicial system. On the front lines – literally – are volunteer marshals sporting khakis, green shirts and yellow baseball caps, standing alongside the rope lines that run the length of most holes. They keep patrons from, say, crossing a fairway when a player is walking past. Higher up on the chain of authority are marshals wearing navy blazers and an array of caps, freely wandering the course in search of miscreants soggy and bold from too many four-dollar beers.

Also in the mix: uniformed agents of Securitas, the private security firm, which deploys a phalanx of officers throughout the grounds. Certain high-profile players – Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and others – also warrant two uniformed Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers, accompanying them all throughout their rounds.

(Approached in the shadow of the great oak outside the Augusta National clubhouse, Securitas officials declined to confirm or deny the existence of specific security protocols, a hole-punching technique, or even a hole-puncher itself.)

Security said that problem patrons are rare, if only because getting thrown out of the tournament risks losing irreplaceable and costly badges.

“When you get to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the patrons know how to act,” one marshal said.

“No one’s holding up any ‘Quiet’ signs or holding up hands for people to be quiet; people just know,” said another.

The issue of rowdy fan behavior was raised earlier this year by Rory McIlroy, who complained of people shouting during back swings and getting too personal.

“‘Dilly, Dilly?’ Fine with me,” McIlroy said. “I don’t mind that. … Look, I keep saying, I’m all for people having a good time. That is what will bring more people into our game and into our sport. But sometimes you just have to remember that it’s not quite a football match.”

Dilly, Dilly? Dilly, Dilly.

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