November 2020

The Lens Man Behind an Online Golf Revolution: Odds are if you’ve watched a golf instruction video online, Dave Lavery crafted it.

Author: Tim Wood | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Dave Lavery was a known commodity in the Lowcountry creative community long before he had the best five-minute meeting of his life. He’s had news footage on every national network, won a litany of awards for his commercials and short films, and impressed national brands and worldwide celebrities with his videography.

“Dave Lave,” as his friends call him, had already shot hundreds of hours of golf-related projects in his career before meeting Beaufort native Justin Tupper in 2007, but those five minutes paved the way to Lavery’s current behind-the-scenes rock star status in the international golf world.

“There’s no doubt that Dave’s videos have been viewed by more people than any producer in the history of golf instruction,” said Tupper, the founder of the digital golf platform Revolution Golf. “He’s been our secret weapon for 13 years. There are thousands of guys who can hit record on a camera, but genius talent like Dave possesses is rare.”

Soon after that meeting, Lavery and Tupper began traveling the world, shooting tips-and-tricks videos with the game’s elite pros. Their work infused life and personality into the historically bland instruction genre en route to amassing thousands of clips and attracting a diehard following of two million subscribers.

“I thank my lucky stars that preparation met opportunity like this for me. It’s been an amazing ride for me and my team with Justin,” Lavery said. “I’m a 50-year-old kid, a lefty golfer who barely breaks 100, who’s living a dream. There’s never been a moment of this that felt like work.”

The path to that life-altering 2007 meeting began when the Pennsylvania native decided to head to the Lowcountry with his newlywed bride, Missy, in 1996. “I sent Tri-Comm a demo reel every month for a year and a half,” Lavery said. (He got that gig after an initial stint with Savannah TV station WSAV.) “I knew a lot of places looked at production as a loss leader, a necessary time investment where quality wasn’t a priority. I wanted to show them you could maybe spend even less time, make it look really good, and make a lot more money off that effort.”

Lavery developed a pattern for quickly rising the ranks, especially in a return to WSAV as head of production. Clients loved his signature style, and his bosses loved the rise in advertising revenues.

Loyal fans like Gulfstream followed the Bluffton resident when he branched out on his own in 2001 and started Timeline Productions. He and long-time partner Glenn Brodie became known for the variety of projects they took on. Lavery’s eclectic résumé included everything from local and national commercials and campaigns, sizzle reels for four Harry Potter movies and a segment producer credit on a Larry the Cable Guy CD.

Lavery had also done projects with Lowcountry golf writing icon Paul DeVere, who was friends with Tupper and knew of the online golf project he was building. Sensing a perfect match of skills and ambitions, DeVere set up the fateful meeting.

“What I realized immediately was that Justin had an encyclopedic knowledge and passion for golf and that he knew how to attract Internet eyeballs,” Lavery said. Tupper said he’d seen a unique approach in Lavery’s work and was only more impressed talking with him.

“Dave wants everyone he shoots to sound and look spectacular. He’s relentless in that pursuit of making people happy,” Tupper said. “Anyone can shoot an instructor saying, ‘Grip it like this.’ But how do you get into the soul of the instructor, show what makes them tick, add character and personality, and make golf fans feel like they’re getting a product and insight they can’t get anywhere else? Up to that point, golf instruction videos were mundane. We were going to show you their life on and off the course, make them entertaining, and Dave sold me quickly that he could deliver that.”

The idea behind Revolution Golf was gutsy in a time when Internet video was in its infancy: deliver daily free content via email to subscribers, give them a product that feels personal and exclusive and offer them more of that addictive content for a fee.

Lavery assembled a core production team that traveled endlessly, shooting golf pros and first looks at golf manufacturers’ new product, often with Tupper as part of the on-air presence.

“We wanted to be a disruptive force, create this insiders club that golfers couldn’t live without, were giddy when it hit their inbox,” said Tupper, who began the company producing DVD videos and selling them out of his garage.

Rev Golf quickly made an online splash, as Lavery was able to unlock the essence of name-brand instructors like Martin Hall, Jim McLean, Sean Foley, Cameron McCormick, Michael Bannon (Rory McIlroy’s coach) and Chris Como and golfing legends like Gary Player.

“He runs a precise set, his team are true pros, they get the shots quick and never waste the talent’s time. But above all, he has a way of disarming these guys that is one of a kind. He’s funny and relatable. He’ll take a stiff and nervous instructor and makes them forget that the camera is pointed at them,” Tupper said. “He makes it clear quickly that his purpose in life is to make them look good. By hour three of a shoot, the instructor is killing it. The next shoot, the pro is giving Dave a hug and will only shoot if Dave is there.
I’ve seen it time and again.”

One of the first examples was with elite instructor Martin Chuck. “Some of the stuff Dave drew out of Martin, I watched in awe, couldn’t stop smiling. The personality he pulled out of Martin, it made it so clear that we could deliver a different kind of product to golf fans,” Tupper said. “The teaching is important, but the connection these pros create with our subscribers, that’s the secret sauce.”

Meanwhile, Tupper assembled a tech team that mastered internet marketing. The results were nearly instant, Lavery said. “I’d post this video of a pro talking about how to cock your wrist. I’d go make a pork chop for dinner, come back and we’d have 50,000 views. We delivered views and repeat customers; when we talked about a new driver, it got 40 times more clicks to buy their product than the manufacturers had ever seen.”
As the views and subscribers grew, every instructor wanted to work with the Rev Golf guys.

“We were building a cult fan following, but it had become this elite coup for instructors to get a daily tips video with us,” Lavery said. “Agents sought us out, wanted their players working with us, too.” Rev Golf revenue grew from $2.5 million in 2009 to $11 million in 2010.

Westin Harbor Savannah golf pro Andrew Rice became one of the Rev Golf stars and said he owes so much of that to Lavery. “He showed me how to sound good, be real and get the message across without talking over golfers’ heads,” Rice said. He remembers a shoot at the annual PGA trade show that was quintessential Dave Lave.

“I had to do a walking shot to a product booth, I was so uptight,” Rice said. “Dave comes in, does this practice run that cracks me up and makes me forget all about the cameras. And we nailed it. He’s one of my favorite people, 100 percent unique and genuine.”

Tupper said Lavery’s work ethic is as formidable as his production skills. He has every shot he’s ever recorded and is known for his video vulture mastery, finding every possible segment to get out of a shoot. “He never misses a deadline. I can call him at 2 a.m. and he is on it. He makes you feel like he lives to deliver for you,” Tupper said.

Lavery said he saw firsthand that all the hard work was gaining traction during a 2010 vacation escape to the Poconos. “I’m at a blackjack table and all these guys are talking golf. They’re all wearing Rev Golf logo shirts, every one of them a diehard Rev Golfer,” Lavery said. “I called Justin and said, ‘Boy, we’re on to something.’”
Over the next few years, Rev Golf became the largest e-commerce website in the industry, even bigger than the biggest three letters in the sport. “We could sense the PGA saw us as a threat, knew that we had a different way of selling the game,” Lavery said.

So much so that the Golf Channel acquired the company in 2017 to fold into their GolfPass subscription service. Tupper became the network’s director of online content and Lavery became their go-to videographer.

“Justin wouldn’t do the deal unless I was part of it, and that meant the world,” Lavery said.

Today, Lavery has 30 different projects going in any one week. He spends 16 hours straight at times in his Hampton Lake home office, crafting segments on his high-powered Macs, only coming up for air to play a game of Galaga, ride his Peloton or hit his punching bag while the final edits render. The finished products air on GolfPass online and the channel’s many studio shows.

Lavery continues to do work for longtime clients like Gulfstream but is proud of the space he’s carved out in the golf world. “I’m happier off of everyone’s radar, a happy barnacle on the golf boat,” he said. “The golf world is full of amazing people, and I love telling their stories.”

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