Max Machado is the man behind Young Dirty, one of the best graphic designers and artist in the golf industry. We were lucky enough to get to do our first collaboration with Max this year with the Tiger Head, Crosshand Coyote, and Devil Dude. But who is the artist behind one of the most unique styles in golf?
We recently sat down with Max and asked him nine burning questions we had for him. During our conversation, we got to know where he came from, how he got his start in golf, and where he sees his art going in 2023.
What’s your golf history? When did you start?
I’ve been playing since I was six. One of my dad’s friends was a golf pro and I was at an age where I was playing every sport imaginable. This guy was like, “This kid should play golf.” My dad thought that was strange, golf wasn’t a sport that was on anybody’s radar, really. But that also coincided with me growing up in rural New Mexico. My parents had a little bit of land and we didn’t really have any neighborsd. All of a sudden, that guy who was a golf pro sent me a junior set of clubs.
Now I’m looking at the landscape of rural New Mexico and I can pretty much hit a golf ball in any direction I want. Back then, my mom had to take me to the skate park or to play basketball. Now all of a sudden golf is a huge advantage. I’ve got wide open spaces, I can just start hitting golf balls. My parents loved it because I could just do it myself, and I’m just gone all day outside.
My dad saw that I took a liking to it and he had another friend that operated a driving range in Santa Fe. That dude gave me all the crappy golf balls from the driving range. He pulled up one day with a 55 gallon trash can full of the grungiest golf balls you’ve ever seen and was just like, “Go nuts.” So now I have infinite golf balls and infinite room, and my parents started buying me golf flags. I ended up with a little golf course out there. My first year or two of golf I don’t know that I even made it to a real golf course.
My parents saw I liked it so they got me a junior membership to Santa Fe Country Club. There were only five or six kids in it, but that gave me a group of homies to go out and play golf with from nine years old to high school. My mom would drive me there when the sun came up and pick me up when the sun went down.
I played in club tournaments and stuff and I was doing decent in those. Someone told me to play in the PGA section for kids.LaughingI think my parents just loved that it ate up so much of my time. Once I started playing in tournaments, I think they realized I had a little bit of potential and it was keeping me out of trouble. So they started looking for real swing instruction.
My grandfather lived in San Diego at the time, and he’s an avid golfer. He got me in with Dean Reinmuth, who had coached PGA pros including Phil Mickelson when he was a junior. That was kind of how my grandfather invested in my future. I would fly out to San Diego once every couple of months and I would work with this dude for like a week. It was big-time, high-level instruction stuff. It really pushed me ahead, especially as a kid in the state of New Mexico. I didn’t end up getting looked at by a ton of D-1 schools — that was my big dream. But New Mexico State, a D-1 school wanted me.
That was crazy. You go from being the No. 1 player in your high school, maybe in the state, and you go to a team full of players who were No. 1 guys intheir high schools or their state. And they’re 22 and they live with their girlfriends. They’re grown men and you’re still figuring your shit out for the first time. That was a huge wake up call. It was like, “Oh shit.” I’m good enough to be here, I’m good enough to play here, but am I good enough to play in the level after that?
I had a lot of life to experience in college because I had spent so much time playing competitive golf. I stayed on the team and got good grades, I kind of realized that was as far as my trajectory was going to take me. I realized I needed to start talking to girls and start making friends out of golf, developing my personality outside of being a golfer.
What got you into making art?
I come from a family of artists. My dad was an artist, so I always had that around in life. There was always paper to draw on, blank canvases, clay — my parents were very accepting. I started in college as a design student, but with the art studio classes and the golf team there was no way to balance those hours out. At that time I was so gung-ho about golf I kind of put that on hold and switched my major to Business so I could take twelve credit hours and keep playing golf.
In that time in 2010, golf was cooler but not as nearly as cool as it is now. I didn’t really see a future working in the golf industry at that time. But eventually I went back to my design routes, and just started doing freelance stuff. Those basic projects everybody gets: band fliers and work for churches or whatever. That led to a job with a design firm I worked for here in New Mexico for six or seven years. All that was great but there was no real way to progress where I was at. I felt kind of stagnant and I didn’t really know what to do. I was doing so much client work, I didn’t really know what my style was. I didn’t know if Ihad a style.
One of my homies sent me through Instagram that this golf brand was having an art contest. I thought that sounded like the lamest shit ever. So I clicked on it and it was Malbon (laughing).And they’re doing this art contest, and I thought they seemed kind of cool. At this point I’m pretty removed from golf but I’m not really that into it. So I’m going through the submissions and it was like… fuck. I mean, no hate, but looking at the submissions I thought I had just a good of chance as anyone. So I drew something.
Overnight, it was like a whole new world was opened up to me. I drew that thing, I put it up, it got voted into the contest and got went right to the top. It got through the whole bracket, and it ended up winning. Malbon posted my art and said, “Congratulations.” The next day there was like eight golf brands in my direct messages and they all said, “Loved what you did for Malbon, can you do something similar for our brand?” I pretty much just quit my job right then and there.
That was 2019, and now here we are.
Why be independent instead of being like the creative director for a golf brand? Is that something you’d be interested in?
It's complicated. For example, I didn’t even realize that golf art was a possibility back in 2019. The algorithm wasn’t hitting me with what was in the golf world. Then dudes like Radry and Slacker Tide came up — all these dudes were making golf art, and people were buying it!. I was like, “I want to do that.”
And I know golf! I know what a swing looks like. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves, where people draw something and the swing anatomy is all messed up or the golf club is left-handed or something. It’s one of those things if you’re a golfer it’s a dead giveaway that the person that drew it doesn’t know golf. I felt like you could kind of blend that classic country club logo mascot style with some fresher shit, that might be something cool. I didn’t wake up one morning and set out to do that. But the stars aligned with the way golf culture is right now, and it made sense.
In terms of doing my own thing, I just have control issues (laughs). As much as I would like to dream and delegate, I think that would stress me out way more instead of how it is now. I want to order the shirts, I’m going to print them, etc. It’s all on me, it’s all on my timeframe. I’ve had some bigger corporate gigs even doing Young Dirty, and it’s great to work with these bigger department store-sized brands. It’s going to be cool to be able to say, “Oh, I have some shirts in Dick’s Sporting Goods” or whatever but they want like six designs and you put your heart and soul in them, and they love them, but then they’re immediately like, “Can we get six more next week?”
And it’s just this real rapid realization that it’s not that I won’t be appreciated, but they’re going to take everything they can get from you. Once that tap is dry, it’s a handshake and they’re onto the next person. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a big ass machine. These people have 150 t-shirts for sale on their website.
As much as it would be cool to be at the helm of something like that, I think it’s also really impactful right now to just be a guy. Just be who you are, and know that one person can do this and one person can create this. Maybe someone else will see that and think they can do it too. That’s how my attitude has always been. Even though it’s a much smaller scale, being independent gives me the opportunity to make exactly what I want and put it out. Maybe only 50 people actually get something in-hand that way, but also those 50 people will feel like theyreally got something.
What about these three characters made them stand out to you?
I think it’s just that Matchstick is just a great place to have a cool piece of expression. I really tried to touch on that with our marketing. You can use a lot of things to mark your ball. But when you put a Matchstick product behind the ball, mentally you’re stoked thatthat is what you’re pulling out of your pocket to mark your ball. It starts a conversation with whoever you’re playing with.
I think that those three characters, whether directly or indirectly, describe the vibes of golf that we’re into. The Devil Dude is drinking and barefoot, he’s having a good time and he’s getting 9 in. Then you have the Crosshand Coyote, who is doing his own thing and he’s all about individualism. The Tiger Head shows the attitude of competition and fierceness. All of those things right there are my favorite things about golf.
I want to provide flavors. That’s what golf needs right now, it needs unique perspectives. I provide that in my own way and encourage anyone else creating to really think about whether something is providing a unique flavor to the marketplace, to the culture.
Your art has a very southwestern style. How does that golf culture down there connect with you and why does it play such a big role in your art?
The Southwest is a very interesting place because if you look at the East Coast and big metropolitan areas, they’re not what they’re like here. You’re limited by land out there, either by price or geography. In New Mexico it’s just wide open spaces. We’re at elevation, you hit the ball far, you have room to make the courses long. It’s an interesting flavor of golf. And at the same time, we don’t have that eliteness that the East and West coasts have in golf. There might be like five or six private courses that I can think of.
So Southwest golf is super accessible. A lot of the great courses are on Indian reservations. They want you to come, they want you to spend money. Everybody's welcome. It creates an interesting landscape of golfers. There’s golfers from all walks of life here, and you see them on the same courses together because there’s very little segregation. I think you add on top of that the diversity of living here — you have a huge Hispanic population, Native American population. Those cultures have their own styles of creativity. That’s always going to be inspiring.
Why did you start Young Dirty and where do you see Young Dirty going in the future? What’s the next step now that you’ve closed your commissions and are trying to concentrate on it?
I just want to grow it only in ways that I can truly control. I want to maintain the quality and a bit of the exclusivity that I have, but at the same time make it more accessible quantity-wise. Instead of having one thing release, maybe I have multiple things come out at once. Slow growth.
I want to collaborate a lot. Even though I’m not doing custom work anymore, I want to maintain the relationship I have with brands I’ve already worked with. Now that I’m on a more solid position on my own, I can focus on more collaborative efforts. Maybe I’ll expand into wholesale for select accounts. I want to maintain what I’ve got. I’m in it for the long run, so it’s really just push it along as opposed to pushing it into something else. This career path has happened so organically that I am kind of just trusting that. Completing all the steps for success impeccably and just seeing what happens. I’m putting that out into the universe.
Social media has been such a blessing for me because I’ve been able to really come from an authentic point of view about who I am and what I think is cool. Some of the darker, heavier sides of golf I’ve been able to talk about them in a fun, light-hearted way. And that’s just it for me. That’s resonated with people, and I think there’s legitimate fans of what I’m doing. It’s truly the coolest shit ever.
To be like, “Hey I played college golf and I had a bunch of mental demons.” It’s been cathartic to come out about that through apparel and stuff. People have seen that and agreed that golf is gnarly. That’s dope.
Tell us about your new project, Fringe Magazine
At the Calamari Invitational this year at Goat Hill I was able to link up with Patrick Gude and Andrew Conte. We’ve been fans of each other for a long time, seeing things each other has created and we’ve had a mutual respect. To be able to actually link up in person at the ‘Mari, we knew we had to do something together.
We thought it would be really cool to do a little ‘Zine of this same kind of vibe as the ‘Mari. Day-to-day golf doesn’t feel like that tournament, but we wanted to share it because even if you didn’t play golf, you would appreciate that energy. Just like how I don’t surf or skate, I still pick up surf and skate magazines and appreciate it for what it is.
So we set forth! We wanted to figure out what sucks about traditional golf magazines. They’re too conservative, and they’re all about fixing your game and all that shit. We need to be pretty much counterculture to all of that. We wanted to expose the things that nobody ever talks about in golf, which is kind of the degenerate side of things. That’s also what makes golf endearing, we just aren’t too proud to admit it.
We’ve go our first issue out, we only printed 100 and they’re gone. Now we’re working on the second issue, getting more people involved. We’re making it longer, making it deeper. We want to make it consistent and really highlight what our friends and family are doing in this cool little movement of golf.
What do you wish people knew about golf that doesn’t seem to get talked about enough?
That it’s self care. For the overwhelming majority of us, that’s what it is. It’s gonna be five hours or two hours, but it’s time to work on something by yourself. It’s time to be with your friends, it’s time to be outside, get some light exercise and stuff. That’s what stays with you for a lifetime. Really whatever skill level you’re at, you can achieve those things.
You may get better, but that may also come with a few demons. A big theme in my life right now is that I think it’s easy to look into the future and want to be in a certain place. Thinking that if you were somewhere else, you would be happier. But that pretty much kicks the ass of productivity. A lot of people say you need to get rid of the past? I need to let go of the future.
Golf allows me to do that in the sense where, when you’re out on that golf course, the bullshit of your life kind of turns off and you have to focus on hitting the next shot. It gives you enough time that when you’re done with it, it resets your brain. I think it’s important for people to have a little bit of time like that. People find it in mountain biking or working out, but golf is one of those outlets. If it speaks to you, then you’ll get hooked for life.
Hole in one or your best round ever?
Truly? I would take the hole in one. Sometimes best rounds ever are kind of stressful or very intensely-focused events. Holes in ones are this spontaneous celebration that instantly every golfer celebrates with you. If you walk into a bar after your round and you say, “I shot 64” maybe a few guys will say good job. But if you say you got a hole in one, everyone is going to celebrate. It’s an understood thing because everyone knows what it is. I haven’t had a hole in one in a long time — my last one was in college. That was 2009, so I’m itching for that.