Macklemore has a new love.
The Seattle rapper calls it an obsession.
That’s why on a recent rainy and gray afternoon he is hitting golf balls at the Jefferson Park driving range, determined to improve his game.
“If you told me 2½ years ago that I’d be here, completely obsessed with this sport, starting a golf clothing company and wanting to play golf every single day, I would never have believed it,” Macklemore says between hitting shots. “But life is crazy.”
It’s time to bring the driver out of the bag, he tells Ben Secord, a childhood friend who is now the Grammy Award winner’s manager.
“Between 40 and 280 yards,” Macklemore jokes when asked how far he hits with that club.
He hits one perfectly, about 280 yards, then another.
“Then that happens,” says Macklemore, after his third drive goes well right into the net protecting the street from the range.
It’s quickly clear watching Macklemore, wearing a stylish green windbreaker from his clothing line, Bogey Boys, which launched this week, that he has ability. His handicap index is 10.5, several strokes better than average among those who have a handicap.
Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, played golf a few times as a kid at Green Lake Pitch N’ Putt and at the Jefferson Park short nine. But he had never played 18 holes and never with a full set of clubs — until just after Thanksgiving in 2018 in Kauai when Secord took him out for a round.
“He dragged me out,” Macklemore recalls, just before hitting a perfect 3-wood 225 yards.
It was another perfect shot, a 5-iron from a bunker, that Macklemore remembers from that round in Kauai.
“It was a horrible day in terms of not knowing what I was doing, but the golf gods gave me one and got me hooked,” said Macklemore, who went to Nathan Hale and Garfield high schools. “I love the escape that it provides. When I’m on a golf course, I’m present. I am not thinking about anything else except the next shot or the last three-putt.”
Like most, Macklemore endured early struggles with the game and was shooting over 100 for a while.
“When you’re playing that kind of golf, you pick your ball up a lot,” says Secord, a former captain of the Garfield High golf team. Now he and Macklemore shoot similar scores.
Macklemore says his music background helps with the tempo of his golf swing. Keith Bennett, who has coached Macklemore for a year and a half, says there are other reasons why Macklemore has progressed quickly.
“Anytime you have the body awareness and the body coordination to move around the stage the way he does and perform and sing — and do all those things multitasking — I think that obviously can’t hurt,” Bennett says. “I don’t know if it directly coordinates to a better golf swing, but the body coordination and the physicality are definitely there. So he’s got something in his favor at the start.
“He brings a dedication to the game because he knows how to work hard, and obviously rise to the top of a field. He brings a hard work ethic, and I think he’s become pretty enamored with the game in a pretty short amount of time.”
Macklemore says he plays about three times a week. It would probably be six times a week, he says, if he didn’t have two daughters, 5 and 2, whom he sometimes brings with him.
Macklemore is a member at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, but says, “I will play golf anywhere,” and often plays at Jefferson Park and West Seattle, two of Seattle’s municipal courses.
Macklemore pulls out an iron. He hits a couple of so-so shots but shrugs it off.
“It is such a humbling game trying to figure it out,” he says. “You watch the pros trying to figure it out, and you’re like, ‘OK, I am not going to figure it out in this lifetime.’ But you have bits and pieces — little tiny spurts and moments where you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to be shooting in the high 70s now,’ and then, bam, it’s back up to 90.”
Macklemore has shot “between 81 and 83 more times than I can count” at Aldarra but has yet to break 80.
“I love the progress, and I love getting better,” he says, pulling an 8-iron out of his bag. “I hate going backwards, but I love digging myself out. It’s been said more eloquently by others, but when you’re playing poorly, you feel like you are never going to get it back, and when you’re playing well, you feel like it’s never going to go away.
“It’s a game of spiritual nature in that you need to let go of the expectations whenever you step onto a golf course because that’s what leads to people being pissed off and breaking clubs and not enjoying their time walking around in nature for four or five hours.”
One thing Macklemore wasn’t enamored with when he started was the clothing choices. That was the impetus for starting Bogey Boys, which will remind some of the more colorful apparel that golfers wore years ago.
“I had a difficult time buying things at pro shops that I was excited to buy,” Macklemore said. “It was like all different shades of white and black to gray to blue polo that look very much the same. I like all of those colors, but there is something about previous generations that always inspired me in terms of fashion. … I wanted to make a product that I wanted to wear on the golf course, that still plays great and still has mobility but has more personality than what you can get in any given pro shop.”
Macklemore pauses to hit a pair of perfect shots with the 8-iron.
“I’ve always loved fashion, and I’ve always been into design,” he says. “Bogey Boys (apparel) is completely hand cut and sewn, so there are no prefabricated materials. … It was a long process, to put it mildly, but I am super-excited about launching it. I think they look great and the golf world needs to be shaken up a little bit.”
Macklemore says the game also needs to be shaken up when it comes to diversity and accessibility and that will be a “huge mission” of his new company. He says he is in talks with different organizations working toward that goal.
“Golf is a game with a long lineage of elite, white male patriarchy,” said Macklemore, who says he enjoys playing at Jefferson Park because of the diversity of the people who play there. “I think this game is incredible, and it needs to be readily available to anyone who wants to play, and part of that is youth programs and part of that is making sure that anyone who needs clubs can get them.
“This has never been a money-driven operation in terms of Bogey Boys,” Macklemore says about the new line, which includes shirts, pants, gloves, hats and towels.
“From the cardigans to the polos to the hoodies, men and women can wear this collection,” he says. “It has been a passion project, and also a way that when I say shake up the game of golf, that’s not just clothing. That’s one aspect of it. I think we need to shake up the entire narrative and make it accessible for everyone.”
Macklemore says he wanted to make quality clothing that stands out on the course, but looks great off it.
Macklemore is a huge Seattle sports fan and is a part-owner of the Sounders. In 2014, he performed with Ryan Lewis at halftime of the NFC Championship Game during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning season, then performed for the team in its celebration party after the Super Bowl.
He was in a more unfamiliar spotlight last year when he competed in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, teaming with PGA Tour pro Lanto Griffin, but the duo failed to make the cut. The pro-am event was canceled this year, but Macklemore teamed with actor Alfonso Ribeiro to beat two other teams in a five-hole celebrity challenge at Pebble Beach last month.
Lowering his handicap to single digits and making the cut at the Pebble Beach are two of Macklemore’s top goals.
“I am going to do it next year,” he said of Pebble Beach. It’s no easy feat, with just 25 of the 156 teams playing on the final day. Actor Jack Lemmon famously tried more than 25 times to make the cut and never succeeded.
Macklemore points at a green in the range, and playfully says, “if I hit it, I’ll make the cut.”
The shot is struck well but goes long. “Too much club,” he says.
Macklemore returns to hitting balls even though Secord is ready to leave.
“There’s the obsession,” Secord says.
It’s an obsession that Macklemore’s wife, Tricia Davis, might not totally understand but one she supports, he says.
“There are moments, when I think just like anyone else in my life, where she’s like, ‘Whoa dude, you have a problem and we’re worried about you. You’re going out again? It’s 40 degrees and there is sideways rain and the winds are 22 mph and you’re going to go play golf by yourself right now? This is bizarre.’”
Macklemore hits a couple more shots and continues.
“But she knows it’s great for my mental health. It’s great to get outside and clear my head, to just focus on that and get outside of the music, to get outside of anything else in life and a hit a little ball around in the outdoors. There is just nothing better.”