Yeti Makes Being Hot Cool
Cooler manufacturer happily hosts the inaugural Heat Strokes Open on an Austin, Texas, day when the temperature — and par — was a sizzling 103.
Meet golf’s hottest new event.
It is not run by LIV Golf or even the suddenly newsworthy MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Tour. In fact, golf’s hottest new event is not for professional golfers at all.
Welcome to the Heat Strokes Open, an aptly named tournament first played Sept. 20 near Austin, Texas, on a 103-degree day. The HSO is not a hot event because it’s trendy. It’s hot because it is intended to be played in sweltering, sizzling, staggering heat.That made Austin in September the perfect place to tee it up, especially since Yeti, the company that makes coolers in all shapes and sizes, is based in Austin and concocted this fun event.
“I think we had 52 straight days of 100-degree heat in Texas,” says Paulie Dery, Yeti’s chief marketing officer. “The high that day for our event was 103 but it felt like 120. The humidity can be hideous. If you’re a golfer, it’s hard to motivate yourself to play 18 holes in that weather on a regular basis.”
The Yeti Heat Strokes Open was not so much a golf tournament as it was a master class in shrewd marketing. Though Yeti is known for being affiliated with activities such as fishing, hunting, surfing, hiking and climbing, it also has business relationships with more than 700 golf courses that sell some of its products in their golf shops.
“With the oppressive heat wave the whole country got this year, we heard from our golf partners that afternoon tee times were getting a little sparse,” Dery says. “We wanted to help out those courses. We love getting people outside. So we wanted to get the average joes out playing golf during all parts of the day and show how well our products survive the heat.”
Thus was born the Heat Strokes Open at ShadowGlen Golf Club … with a novel wrinkle. Par for the HSO wouldn’t be the usual 72, it would be the high temperature of the day. What good would that do since golfers’ scores wouldn’t be any different? It would give the average hacker a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shoot under par. Fun motivation, in other words.
The winning score of 76, therefore, was 27 under when par was 103 instead of the traditional 72.
“The idea was, how do you encourage people to get outside during the hottest parts of the day?” Dery says. “If you watched me swing a golf club, you’d know it would be music to my ears if par was 100. It was a great way to say, ‘The hotter the better.’ It turned a negative into a positive.”
Between the lure of Yeti gear for participants and the unique par, Dery said the event’s 70 tee times filled up in about 10 minutes. One hundred and twenty golfers teed off in a shotgun start. The idea of helping out a golf course turned into a day for golfers to have fun and discover Yeti, a win-win. And the revised par scheme really worked.
“I shot a solid 86, 100 percent the first time I ever shot under par,” Dery says. “The players absolutely loved it. It gave them something to shoot for when par isn’t normally attainable. It was amazing how competitive it got all of a sudden between some pretty average golfers.
“We had one of our Yeti fish ambassadors playing with us. It came down to his last putt and when he made it for 102, you’d have thought he just won the Masters.”
Dery says Yeti plans to make the Heat Strokes Open an annual event and maybe hold multiple events in different parts of the country — hot parts, of course. “The reaction to this really proved it can work,” Dery says.
Actually, Yeti hoped to hold the first HSO in America’s hottest location — Death Valley, at Furnace Creek Golf Course. But a freakish one-in-1,000-year flood hit that area in early August so the venue moved to Austin.
Yeti also is working on a Heat Strokes Open kit — custom Yeti bottles and coolers, logo golf balls, customized scorecards and more — so courses in the summer heat zone can run their own Heat Strokes Opens.
“Golf had a good surge during COVID but this heat is not going anywhere,” Dery says. “It’s summer. It gets hot. If we can solve a problem, help out courses by getting people out there to play and keeping them hydrated, that’s awesome.”
Another thing Yeti hopes to put a dent in is plastic usage. So, reusable Yeti bottles and tumblers and coolers instead of plastic bottles and cups. At Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, each player gets a complimentary Yeti bottle, one way the resort has become 100 percent plastic free.
It’s unusual that Yeti is involved in golf because it doesn’t make any golf-specific products. Most of its gear is multi-purpose. Yeti began as a fishing brand. The company was founded in 2006 by Roy and Ryan Seiders, brothers who grew up in Driftwood, Texas. Their simple mission was, according to its website: Build the cooler you’d use every day if it existed.
“Yeah, we made things just so we could fish longer on the boat,” Dery says. “We were annoyed that the ice melted and we had to stop fishing and come in. There was no cooler that could hold ice all day then. And we used those old coolers as fishing platforms. You stood on them and they would break. They were crappy. So we made an indestructible one just so we could fish longer. It was absolutely selfish. Now they’re being used from coastal (ocean-side activities) to ranches to rodeo all over the globe. It’s funny now to see our cups sitting on desks in New York City. It’s been a wild ride.”
Yeti built a better cooler (once called an ice chest) and the word spread. After the fishing crowd discovered Yeti, so did the hunting crowd. And the surfing crowd. And the barbecue crowd. And the rest.
“Our products found all these different communities and became part of those communities,” Dery says. “Golf has adopted the product because it’s so great for the course. Now that golf has found us, we want to be there to help that community.
“It’s really fascinating. Golf has a huge overlap with the other outdoors sports. Ask any of our fishing or hunting folk. Or even our alpinists (climbers). That’s a grueling sport, they can’t do it every day. You’d be amazed how many are picking up clubs and getting into golf. It has a beautiful setting and it’s a form of relaxation for them. There’s this crazy Venn Diagram of people who love our core pursuits and also play golf.”
What the brothers created has grown exponentially. Yeti is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (under YETI) and, according to American Bank and Market News, has net income of $212 million compared to $98 million for its combined rivals, and a stock price-to-earnings ratio of 13.17 versus its rivals’ 4.65. It has a market capitalization of $2.55 billion and MarketBeat rates the stock, trading at $30.06 as of Oct. 13, a “moderate buy.”
The brothers surely didn’t golf as a future outlet for Yeti products when they started but last month’s Heat Strokes Open made it official: It’s cool to be hot.