The popularity of golf has surged in recent years and during the pandemic, with new golfers and the further spread of non-traditional ways to play like TopGolf helping to start to shed the sport’s stodgy reputation.
Grammy award-winning rapper Macklemore, best known for his hit song “Thrift Shop,” recently fell in love with golf, but found that the clothes marketed to players didn’t appeal to him.
“On vacation, I got dragged out onto the golf course and didn’t want to go – I definitely hit a couple of houses,” Macklemore told CNBC’s Dominic Chu at the CNBC Small Business Playbook virtual summit on Wednesday. “Finally, I pure a five iron out of a fairway bunker, and I was enthralled. Like, what was that feeling? I need that again.”
Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said that shortly thereafter he went to a sporting goods store, but realized that “the pickings in terms of golf fashion were very slim, and that’s being generous.”
“Golf clothes have one archetype of a male, white dude in mind,” he said. “Golf is much bigger than that.”
Golf struggled to shed that perception, even during Tiger Woods’ ascendance to becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.
But there is hope that an influx of new players will help shift that archetype. An estimated 3.2 million people played on a golf course for the first time in 2021, up 33% from 2019 and well exceeding the number of people who flocked to the game following Woods’ early successes in 1999 and 2000, according to The National Golf Foundation. More rounds were played last year than ever before in history, according to NGF.
While some of that momentum has slowed — rounds played in 2022 are down roughly 6% compared to last year — that influx of new, younger players has helped to energize the game, Macklemore said.
“There’s a whole generation of young people that got into golf in the last one to three years that don’t want to look like they sell real estate, and I think that’s great,” he said.
A fan of 1970s- and 1980s-era golf fashion even before becoming a golfer, the desire to fill the clothing need for golfers such as himself led Macklemore to start the Bogey Boys apparel brand.
The brand, which features items like Cheetah print knit vests, pinstriped sweaters, and colorful polos, is designed to appeal to both golfers and high-fashion lovers alike, Macklemore said, something that many of the typical brands in the golf-wear space do not consider.
“I think for so many other brands, it’s contingent upon people playing golf, or else you’re not going to wear these clothes,” he said. “Something I think that has happened with the pandemic and golf skyrocketing is that you’re seeing a shred of golf fashion in the streetwear space – you can go to [fashion website] Hypebeast and see articles on golf, that’s something very new.”
Macklemore is not the first golf-enthusiast entertainer to try to shake up the sport’s look. In 2011, Justin Timberlake was named the creative director of Callaway Golf, working on the club and apparel maker’s “visual representation.” Bill Murray, famous for his role in “Caddyshack,” started William Murray Golf in 2016. NBA star Steph Curry started creating golf apparel with Under Armour in 2019, leading to the launch of his golf line under his Curry Brand offshoot.
That uptick in new players as well as new products has been a boon for golf apparel, typically led by companies like Adidas, Nike, Callaway, and Acushnet-owned Footjoy. More than $150 million of golf apparel was sold in April, with 21 of the last 22 months seeing sales increases month-over-month, according to golf product industry tracker Golf Datatech.
But even if the growth of golf tapers off, Macklemore said the focus on fashion unlike other golf-focused apparel will still benefit Bogey Boys.
“Any sport waxes and wanes, that’s ok,” he said. “The clothes are still going to be top-notch, the quality is going to be great, and people are going to feel great and look great in the garments.”