Hip-Hop Is Serious About Golf, Just Ask ScHoolboy Q, Scarface and OMB Peezy
Some of music's biggest names have been all up in the videos for decades hitting the green, but these days, hip-hop is serious about golf.
Words: Luke Fox
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Summer 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Hip-hop legend Scarface wonders how his younger, wilder self would react if someone told him he’d grow up to be a golfer. “Get that s**t outta here,” the 52-year-old Geto Boys rapper says. “That s**t wasn’t for us.”
Today, however, Scarface can’t imagine life without the links. He golfs “every day that ends in y,” is a member at multiple country clubs, takes lessons weekly, gets invited to scores of tournaments and, on a good day, shoots par. “I can shoot every golf course even, if I manage the course properly,” Scarface confirms. “Golf is a lifetime of knowledge, man. It’s gonna take a lifetime. You’ll play this game ’til you old and grey, and you’ll never master it. It’s the only game you’ll never learn to play.”
Scarface’s entry to the most humbling sport came through his daughter, who began taking golf lessons in the summer of 2006, as one of the countless Black people inspired by the Tiger Woods boom. Quickly realizing that his daughter could hit the ball better than her dad, Scarface went and bought his own set of clubs and began working on his swing. “I’ve been playing ever since,” he shares. “It’s better than doing nothing. Take up golf, find something new, and, eventually, you get good at it.”
On the surface, hip-hop and golf don’t belong in the same cart. One is aggressive and expressive, an unpredictable, inclusive art form born of low-income neighborhoods. The other has long been perceived as a stuffy, slow, buttoned-down pursuit of old White men.
Yet, increasingly, the worlds of rap and golf are colliding and intersecting. The swing and the beat have struck the right tempo. “There’s some great f**kin’ golfers that rap,” Scarface affirms. “ScHoolboy Q is a good golfer, judging by his swing. I see DJ Khaled’s picking up the game. [Music executive] Steve Stoute’s picking up the game. I know [300 Elektra Entertainment Chairman & CEO] Kevin Liles is supposed to have crazy game, and a few more. Golf and hip-hop. Luther [‘Uncle Luke’] Campbell, he did it first. He was playing golf before everybody, in my opinion. Luke been playing golf for a long-a*s time.”
Back in 1997, Diddy and Ma$e had some fun with a golf-themed skit in The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” video. Four years later, Diddy memorably whacked a golf ball through neighbor Ben Stiller’s home window in the rhymer’s “Bad Boys for Life” video.
Rapper-turned-actor Will Smith starred in Robert Redford’s 2000 golf film, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Noted golfer Snoop Dogg played Huggy Bear in 2004’s Starsky & Hutch reboot and steals one of the film’s better scenes when he caddies for drug kingpin Reese Feldman (played by Vince Vaughn). “You know a lot about golf,” Reese tells Huggy. Huggy responds: “I know even more about grass.”
Maino dropped an infidelity anthem titled “Get ’Em Tiger” amidst golf champion Tiger Woods’ wife cheating scandal in 2009, while Tyler, The Creator (2013’s “Tamale”), French Montana and Drake (2016’s “No Shopping”), Gucci Mane (2017’s “Members Only”), Rae Sremmurd (2017’s “Swang”), and DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber and 21 Savage (2021’s “Let It Go”) have all incorporated golf into their music videos. Khaled has become an avid golfer himself and shares his activities on the green in countless Instagram posts.
In January of this year, 50 Cent linked up with Travis Scott and retired NFL player Terrell Owens at a star-studded Houston golf tournament. Two years prior, Scott was spotted playing a round in Palm Springs, Calif. with Mark Wahlberg and Michael Jordan. It was the first public appearance the rapper made since the Astroworld Festival tragedy.
However, no MC flaunts his love for the game more than ScHoolboy Q. The Los Angeles native came out in a golf cart and wore country club-approved attire when performing his sets during TDE’s 2018 The Championship Tour. In 2022, ScHoolboy was featured in the trailer for the Tiger Woods-endorsed PGA Tour 2K23 video game. That same year, Q played in the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California. He’s admittedly said the sport “changed my life.”
The bucket hat-wearing rapper broke down the origins of his golf addiction in a 2019 interview with Golf Digest.
“It was a bet,” ScHoolboy recalled. “We were in the studio, and my boy started talking crazy. He’s a fashion designer who grew up playing with his dad. He says golf’s too hard for me. Bets me $10,000 that I can’t make a birdie in two years. At this point, the only golfers I’d heard of were Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Arnold Palmer, and him only because of the drink. In less than 10 rounds I made a birdie, sank about a 70-foot putt, and it was over.”
ScHoolboy credited all those hours outdoors for helping his mental state, attitude and approach to life. Each round is a microcosm for various aspects of life: good moments, bad ones and always another opportunity to change your fate with the next swing.
“When people think of golf, they think of retirement,” he explained. “Old, corny, White. Shake hands after the round, shirt tucked in, take your hat off—all that corny s**t a rapper would never do, especially one with diamond teeth who smokes 24/7. But I’ve met lots of people on the course just like me who just don’t post pictures. People say, ‘Bro, get off the golf course and into the studio.’ But, bro, I’m in the studio eight days a week. I got a studio in my house. I’m rapping on the course. I came up with half my new album while I was playing. They have no idea how the game opened up my mind. I was in a dark place, and golf got me inspired again.”
Last July, OMB Peezy dropped a “How to Golf” video on his YouTube channel, complete with an ankle monitor strapped to his leg. Peezy golfs about once a week. His interest in the sport began at age 12, yet it wasn’t until recently that he felt comfortable broadcasting his love.
“I’m really not the normal-looking person to be interested in golf.” Peezy says from his studio, where he's putting the finishing touches on his new album, Le’Paris, arriving this summer. “I’m a gangsta, ya feel me? I was always a kid who needs to know a little bit about a lot of s**t, so I can surprise people I meet. That’s always been my thing.”
As a kid, Peezy explains that his mother’s boyfriend was big into golf. Curious, Peezy would tag along the course.
“When I picked up a club one day, it took me one time to hit the ball right,” he remembers. “And I put hit on the ball—blam!—every time pipeline, right down the center of the [fairway], ya feel me? That s**t give you a different feeling. It’s like hitting a ball in baseball or getting a touchdown in football.”
Born in Alabama and growing up in Sacramento with a single mother, Peezy says his family couldn’t afford to put the kids in basketball and football leagues like so many of his peers. But if he hung out with mom’s boyfriend, he could borrow his clubs for free.
“As I grew, I learned that golf is one of the only sports you can play for sure when you get old,” Peezy maintains. “At the beginning, I’m swinging with all my f**kin’ might, and I learned that’s what you don’t do. I’m swinging with all my might, and there’s an 80-year- old man hitting a bomb all the way down the fairway. It’s f**kin’ me up. What the f**k? He’s 80 years old! That’s lit. A sport you can play when you’re 80 years old. That made me want to learn.”
It’s also been a sanctuary of sorts for the 300 Entertainment artist. “It’s peaceful, bro,” Peezy reveals. “And then when I tell my homeboys, ‘I’m going to play golf,’ don’t nobody want to come. They want to come to the club. They want to come f**k with some h*es or s**t, but don’t nobody wanna play golf. That’s some good alone time a n***a get.”
Peezy has self-diagnosed himself with bipolar disorder. He flip-flops from manic to depressed. Getting out in nature and narrowing his focus to connecting the driver to the ball serves as a salve for his busy mind. “It just keeps me focused,” he admits. “It’s peaceful. You know, you’re around all the grass, trees, water. It’s just peaceful. But I really be focused on my game, though. It ain’t too much going on in my head. Like, playing football, as the quarterback, you gotta think, Damn, don’t overthrow the ball, watch out for the linemen, my offensive linemen ain’t blocking. In basketball, it’s, Oh, s**t, I just got dunked on. Golf is just peaceful. All you gotta do is work on your swing, and you’re good.”
Peezy fondly recalls golfing with Kevin Liles at the private Alpine Country Club in New Jersey. “Kevin Liles taught me about the patience part of the game,” Peezy expresses. “I get frustrated real quick. On Hole 1, if my first hit is not cool, I’ma gonna feel some type of way. You got to warm up, get into it. But he taught me about the patience of the game, for real.”
Just as rappers are increasingly flashing their love for golf, golfers are also paying some of that respect back. Irish pro Rory McIlroy submitted his personal hip-hop playlist including Ludacris and Eminem songs to BBC.com. Spanish golfer Jon Rahm, a Kendrick Lamar fan, credits his memorization of rap lyrics for helping him communicate in English. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson even dropped a guest verse on Christian rapper KB’s “Ima Just Do It” in 2015. And five-time major winner Brooks Koepka filmed a video of himself breaking down his favorite rappers this past May, picking Lil Wayne over Eminem for the crown. LIV Tour pro Harold Varner III proudly bumps hip-hop. He and fellow pro Sam Ryder went to see Drake, his favorite, perform at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m a Big Sean guy, Drake, you know, I listen to about anything but techno, Tory Lanez,” Varner III tells XXL. “Yeah, I got a little bit of everything. I like Chance The Rapper. Every chance I get, on a plane, on the golf course. Obviously, I play on the LIV Tour. They don’t listen to that music, but you know how it goes. Anything that’s got a beat to it. Yeah, every chance I can listen to music, I do. In the shower, you name it.”
Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Varner III was gifted a Fischer-Price set of clubs as a toddler, then later developed his passion for golf and played at the local municipal course that offered an affordable $100 all-you-can-play summertime membership. He sees the image of golf shifting away from being just a boring pastime, and that is what has helped encourage some hip-hop crossover.
“It just wasn’t cool growing up,” Varner III says. “I mean, I thought it was cool. I was having fun. But playing golf wasn’t the thing for our culture. Keep giving access, obviously to Black people, but anyone who wants to get into it, that’s what’s gonna make it cool. That’s what’s gonna make it different.”
Scarface takes issue with the notion that golf has been exclusive to White folks, that the influx of Black golfers is something new. “The caddies were Black, and the White man would let the caddies play on the first day,” Scarface schools. “So, the caddies had real good golf games back in the ’60s, ’70s. I got a buddy that’s been playing since the ’70s. It may look like an old White man’s game because that’s what they showed on TV. But on those actual courses, man, the municipal courses, the public courses, Black people were actually playing golf— when they let them play. Or they carrying the man’s bag and give him pointers.”
Scarface leaves golf newcomers with a pointer himself. “My advice to any youngster is learn the game of golf because golf will put you in situa- tions that will set you up for your future, man,” he tips. “It’s a lot of great business deals that you make on the golf course. And a lot of people will work with you just because you can play good golf.”
The Freshman issue of XXL magazine is on stands now. See Finesse2tymes, Rob49, Fridayy, GloRilla, 2Rare, SleazyWorld Go, Lola Brooke, Central Cee, Real Boston Richey, Luh Tyler, TiaCorine and DC The Don's official Freshman pages. In addition to interviews with all 12 artists in the 2023 Class and Freshman cyphers producer Pi'erre Bourne, it includes interviews with Lil Baby, NLE Choppa, Boosie BadAzz, Toosii, DDG, Saba, producer Go Grizzly, engineer Jaycen Joshua, singer Coco Jones, SinceThe80s' President Barry "Hefner" Johnson and AEW wrestler Swerve Strickland, plus a look back at what the 2022 XXL Freshman Class is doing, hip-hop's love for golfing featuring Scarface, OMB Peezy and pro golfer Harold Varner III, conversations with 10 new artists making noise and a deep dive into A.I. hip-hop songs. You can also buy the 2023 XXL Freshman Class issue here.