Chatting with America’s Caddie: How Macklemore mocked, then fell in love with golf

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Macklemore (aka Ben Haggerty) has fallen hard for golf. Now, when he sits up straight in bed, it isn’t because he thought of new rap lyrics: It’s about golf.

But don’t get things twisted. He didn’t always feel this way. And that’s how this conversation starts, with me calling him out!

Collins: I have to call you out on something. Ready?

Macklemore: Uh-huh.

Collins: I saw an interview with you from back in the day where you say golf is overrated! Now I know it was before you really caught the bug, but … you know where I’m going …

Macklemore: DAAAAAMMMMNNN!!! He dug up the receipts!!!!

Collins: Yeah, I did.

Macklemore: He dug up the receipts! I didn’t even know you were gonna go there! I mean, I kind of figured this is where you’re going, but it’s a pitchfork thing (referencing the mob coming to get Frankenstein). It’s a vague memory, but you know what, if I could go back and change my answer, come on man, you know what I would say. But that’s crazy, you know. I mean I judged the s— out of golf for a long time. You know the “country club,” the white patriarchal, old money, elite “no one else but us can play”- type s—. And it’s very different than my judgment back then..

Collins: True. And here’s where I’m going to give you a reprieve: You also said back then you would smoke “copious amounts of weed” before playing. Then a group of old stuffy people would catch your group, making you crazy paranoid.

Macklemore: That sounds about right.

Collins: So when did it change? When did golf become more than what you thought it was?

Macklemore: I think that when I got dragged out in 2018 after Thanksgiving. I went out there and got on the first tee, I hit a snap hook that went directly into a house and smashed the roof. One of those, like, you’re waiting for the sound like, “Oooh, is that gonna hit something?” Then it’s just “BAM!” and it’s just louder than you even anticipated? One of those. Like definitely “getting a lawsuit”-type of noises. Hit a bunch more houses. And then finally, we got to the back and I ended up in a fairway bunker. Grab a 5-iron, and had no idea what the 5-iron really did, and I smacked it. I hit it pure. And I was like, “Oooh, what is that feeling? I want that again.” And that was the moment everything changed. The obsession started.

Collins: That’s the addiction. That one perfect shot where you say, “Yo! I seen them do that on TV! I just did what I’ve seen a pro do on TV.”

Macklemore: Right, right, right … exactly.

Collins: Tell me about this new project.

Macklemore: Bogey Boys. It has been a labor of love for the last year and a half almost two. It’s my golf clothing line.

Collins: And how did this come about?

Macklemore: Shortly after I started playing. I would go into pro shops and be like, “Really? This is this is what we have to pick from? This blue polo, that black polo, this gray polo … damn, that’s it?” The apparel side of golf is just so stale. That’s not to say that it all is, but there’s few and far between in terms of pieces that I’m like, “Oooh, I really mess with this.” I wanted to make clothing that stuck out. That had some lineage from the past, yet also felt like 2021. Something you could wear on and off the course, that gives you just some variety to be an individual out there. Looking at the bigger picture of the sport, making sure that we are including everyone that wants to play the game — getting youth out there, making it affordable and making sure the kids have access to clubs and have access to teachers. That this very — at one point — elite old boys’ club white sport is diversified, and it becomes something that everyone who wants to play has the opportunity to do.

Collins: What’s coming out? Shirts, pants and hats?

Macklemore: Socks, ball markers, jackets, head covers, towels — we got a lot of things, man. I’m really happy with it. It wasn’t something that I just had a designer do, or hired a company and then put my name on it. It was something that me and a designer did together. We stayed up, for over a year, working late into the night. Sending stuff back and forth, on Zooms just trying to dial this thing in, getting samples back. It was fun — and hella work!! Who knew that making a pair of pants was so hard? But I’m super-pumped on the way that it all turned out. I think it’s really dope. It’s something that I want to wear, and that’s what I wanted to create.

Collins: Now, when you sit up at night and exclaim, “I got it!” people around you are going to go, “What? The new lyrics for a song?” And you’re going to be like, “A new shirt design!” I love your passion for everything golf. Like your passion for music. Are there any similarities? Does anything translate from music to golf — or golf to music?

Macklemore: You know, it’s interesting. They’re very different for me. You know what, though, I will say this: When you’re making great music you don’t have to think. There’s something effortless. It’s not overcalculated. You’re not thinking about in six months when this comes out, what’s the music video going to be like, who’s not going to like it. You’re not thinking about any of that. You’re just creating. I think the times that I played great golf — and there’s been a handful, and just a handful — but when I played great golf I’m literally just shot for shot in the moment. When you’re in the moment and you’re not thinking about score or you’re not thinking about what [a song] is going to do on the radio, that’s when the best things happen. When you can literally get outside of your head. I think that’s why these golfers have the sports psychologists. Either way, in music and golf, if you can get outside of your own head … in golf, be athletic. In music, just tap into that into that higher power, whatever it is, the outcome is going to be better.

Collins: Staying on that vibe then, which song took the longest to get out of your head? Start to finish, when it was released, which song were you like, “Damn, finally!”

Macklemore: You know, it’s funny because a lot of times I’ll start and get a verse and then stop. Be like, put it down, all right, I’m good. Maybe I’ll come back to it, maybe I won’t. Nowadays, I try to get it kind of out there in one in one fell swoop in terms of the creative process and then maybe go back. But I used to just write like a verse. I started writing “Thrift Shop” in 2008, and that song didn’t come out until 2012. I wrote just random bars. It was just like, “Oh, it’d be funny to kind of call out street wear, oversized T-shirt culture and luxury brands.” So I started that in 2008 . And it wasn’t like I was hunched over the page thinking “How do I write this song?” It was just, that’s how long that song ended up taking.

Collins: OK, so then which song has been the fastest?

Macklemore: I wrote “Otherside” probably in 20 minutes. It’s two long verses. That was one of those songs, you know. It’s about addiction and recovery. And that was one of those songs where I shot 6-under par! I didn’t think about it. The pen was moving without me having to think. I was just a conduit. Again, there’s just a handful of those in my career where something else was guiding that pen and I felt almost like I was a separate entity.

Collins: I like the 6-under reference. Like you weren’t even keeping score. Just look back after the round and think, “What did I shoot? 66? Seriously?”

Macklemore: Yeah, right.

Collins: This game will humble you, though.

Macklemore: I get it. Literally I’m playing Cypress Point the other day. Now, I’ve been back home, and granted it’s with my winter rules and my breakfast ball, but I have been shooting in the in the low-to-mid 80s.

Collins: OK, so you feel like you can get it around.

Macklemore: Yeah, like I can get around. First day I shoot kind of a bootleg 86. Next day is at 88. Next day I go to Cypress and I start off with the birdie. I’m like, “Could this be the day? Am I gonna break 80 at Cypress?” I don’t know if I broke 105. I stopped keeping score. And literally I had to have the conversation with myself like, “Bro, you are not gonna cry right now. You are not gonna do it.” I was trying to find my ball. I was among the deer. Everyone else was on the fairway. It was like the third double in a row after the birdie. This game is so savage. It can turn on you this quickly.

Collins: I’m proud of how honest you’ve been about your sobriety and the journey. Has golf helped? Has your songwriting changed?

Macklemore: For one, I never wrote anything under the influence. I was never type of dude that would smoke or drink or do some pills and go be creative. I’d go smoke some weed and freestyle. But in terms of actually sitting down and writing a song? Never. I was never that dude. I think that golf has, if I’m being honest, absolutely turned into an addiction. But it’s a healthy addiction. It’s one where I get outside. I get to breath in some oxygen. I get to get some exercise. I get to challenge myself physically, mentally, spiritually in terms of acceptance. It’s one of those addictions that’s a good one. I think that like anything, I can get obsessive. If I didn’t have kids and a wife, I’d probably be playing 36 holes every day. There is such a thing as too much golf. I can get in that place where that’s all I want do — and that’s not balance. You know what I’m saying? I still need to prioritize my recovery. I still need to have a creative outlet musically. I still need to do my job and I still need to show up for my family. So it’s all about keeping those things in balance.

Collins: Pro golfers struggle with that, too, when they get married and have kids — finding that balance. Is there a golfer you were surprised to learn was a fan of yours?

Macklemore: It’s interesting because I haven’t met a ton of golfers. I’ve met some down here at Pebble [Beach], for sure. (He played the AT&T Pro-Am in 2020 and the charity shootout in this year). I’ve developed some Instagram homies, but … Peter Malnati. We were walking with him. But it wasn’t until the 10th hole and he was like, “Wait, hold on a second. You’re Macklemore?” And I have no idea that this dude knows who I am or doesn’t know. And he’s like, “‘Same Love,’ that record, man, just, you know, really.” And it’s always a record where you’re like (confused), this professional golfer was really moved by “Same Love.” What? This is never what I would have picked. So, that one definitely stands out. But it’s just been cool to get to know some of the guys on tour and have that mutual respect and admiration for what we both do as a career.

Collins: We have a mutual friend who talks a lot of trash. Someone you put in one of your music videos. Thank you for making Ken Griffey Jr. wear that toupee in downtown. Have the two of you played any golf together? I know you’re both part-owners of the Seattle Sounders MLS team.

Macklemore: No, we haven’t. I was just DMing with him the other day. He definitely got the bug. That dude has got the golf bug. He’s an avid golfer. And it’s funny, because the first time he came to a Sounders game, we were all down there. It was actually the championship game that we won. He came in and I was sitting there talking and I was like, “Hold on, you play golf, right?” He was like, “Bro.” Pulled up his phone. Showed me the first picture he pulled up. It was the last picture taken. It was a scorecard from the day before. He was like, “Bro, I’m a member here, here and here. I’ve already played 200 rounds.” It’s only March!

Collins: Bucket list course?

Macklemore: Augusta National. It’s [Nos.] 1 through 10!

Collins: Amen! I’m sure at some point that’ll get checked off the list.

Macklemore: There’s new music coming, there’s Bogey Boys, there’s a handicap that’s going to continue to trend downward — probably go back upward, too. It’s a beautiful life, you know. And throughout it all I get to be a dad and I get to be clean. That’s the life that I want to live. The best one I could have dreamed.

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