Golf’s popularity has surged in recent years and during the pandemic, with new golfers and the proliferation of non-traditional styles of play like TopGolf helping to shed the sport’s bad reputation.
Grammy-winning rapper Macklemore, best known for his hit song “Thrift Shop,” recently fell in love with golf but found that the clothing items marketed to the players didn’t appeal to him.
“While on vacation, I got dragged onto the golf course and didn’t want to leave — I definitely hit a few houses,” Macklemore told CNBC’s Dominic Chu on Wednesday at the CNBC Small Business Playbook Virtual Summit. “Finally, I hit a five iron out of a fairway bunker and loved it. What was that feeling? I need that again.”
Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said he went into a sporting goods store shortly after but found “the selection of golf fashion was very limited and that’s generous.”
“Golfwear has in mind an archetype of a masculine, white guy,” he said. “Golf is much bigger than that.”
Golf struggled to shed that perception even during Tiger Wood’s rise to become one of the greatest players in the sport’s history.
But there is hope that an influx of new players will help change this archetype. An estimated 3.2 million people played a golf course for the first time in 2021, up 33% from 2019 and far more than the number of people who flocked to the game after Woods’ early successes in 1999 and 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation . According to NGF, more rounds were played last year than at any time in history.
While some of that momentum has slowed — rounds played in 2022 are down about 6% year-over-year — this influx of new, younger players has helped revitalize the game, Macklemore said.
“There’s a whole generation of young people that have come into golf in the last year or three who don’t want to look like they’re selling real estate, and I think that’s great,” he said.
Even before he became a golfer, he was a fan of the golf fashions of the 1970s and 1980s. A desire to meet the need for clothing for golfers like himself led Macklemore to start clothing brand Bogey Boys.
The brand, which offers items like cheetah-print cardigans, pinstriped sweaters and brightly colored polo shirts, aims to appeal to both golfers and lovers of high fashion, Macklemore said, something many of the more quintessential golf apparel brands don’t consider.
“I think for so many other brands, it depends on whether people play golf or they’re not going to wear those clothes,” he said. “Something that I think has happened with the pandemic and the golf escalation is that you see a touch of golf fashion in the streetwear space – which you can go to [fashion website] Hypebeast and see article about golf, this is something brand new.”
Macklemore isn’t the first golf-mad entertainer trying to shake up the look of the sport. In 2011, Justin Timberlake was appointed Creative Director of Callaway Golf and worked on the “visual representation” of the club and apparel manufacturer. Bill Murray, best known for his role in “Caddyshack”, founded William Murray Golf in 2016. NBA star Steph Curry began creating golf apparel with Under Armor in 2019, which led to the launch of his golf line under his spin-off Curry Brand.
This surge in new players, as well as new products, has been a boon for golf apparel, which is typically led by companies like Adidas, Nike, Callaway, and Acushnet-owned Footjoy. More than $150 million in golf apparel was sold in April, with 21 of the last 22 months showing monthly sales increases, according to Golf Datatech, an industry tracker for golf products.
But even if golf’s growth slows, Macklemore said the focus on fashion, unlike other golf apparel, will still benefit Bogey Boys.
“Every sport grows and wanes, that’s okay,” he said. “The clothes will still be top notch, the quality will be great and people will feel great and look great in the clothes.”