The Greatest GOLF Movies, Ever

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm

5. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005; Dir. by Bill Paxton and starring Shia LeBeouf)


Francis Ouimet: “All I want is a chance.”

The golf movie catalogue is admittedly thin. Let’s just say The Greatest Game Ever Played won’t make Friday’s top-25. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable in its own right.

Starring Shia LeBeouf in a tailor-made role, TGGEP tells the story of Boston’s own Francis Ouimet, and his attempt to qualify for and compete in the 1913 U.S. Open held at The Country Club in Brookline, where Ouimet grew up caddying. The old-fashioned inspirational (and true) tale deals with themes of class and struggle and the ways in which golf tried, for years, to keep the lower class out. This is one of those movies where the less you know going in, the better, but I can tell you this: it’s a fun story, the role is right in LeBeouf’s wheelhouse, and it has some great golf scenes. If you haven’t seen it already, check it out.

4. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000; Dir. by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith, and Charlize Theron)


Bagger Vance: “I always felt a man’s grip on his club is just like a man’s grip on his world.”

Bagger Vance is a tough one. On paper, it looks like a slam dunk: a golf movie directed by Robert Redford starring Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron (come on, people, Charlize Theron!) and Jack Lemmon in the last role before his death at age 76. Can’t-miss, right?

Well, sort of.

In telling the story of a two-day exhibition match between Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and former-prodigy-but-burgeoning-drunk Rannulph Junuh (Damon), Redford has the framework of an old reliable underdog tale. But things get a little weird when Will Smith shows up as Bagger Vance, a mysterious and possibly mystical caddy who offers to carry Junuh’s bag and maybe, just maybe help him turn his life around. The movie quickly becomes a cheesier mash-up of Field of Dreams and Tin Cup and it emerges, unfortunately, a little worse for wear. But if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours, it’s an enjoyable ride overall.

3. Happy Gilmore (1996; Dir. by Dennis Dugan and starring Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, and Carl Weathers)


Happy Gilmore: “During high school, I played junior hockey and still hold two league records: most time spent in the penalty box, and I was the only guy to ever take off his skate and try and stab somebody.

Happy Gilmore is great – so great, in fact, that really the only negative thing about the movie is its reminder that for some reason Adam Sandler no longer makes movies like it. From Shooter McGavin’s disgusted arrogance to Ben Stiller’s Nazi of a nursing home attendant to Chubbs Peterson and his crazy wooden arm, Happy Gilmore is just one classic scene after another.

I first saw it one summer right around the time I started getting interested in golf, and I swear I spent my next 20 rounds taking Happy Gilmore-style hacks from the tee box. A great majority of those shots ended up either lost in the woods or duck-hooking their way into oncoming traffic, but every last one of them was awesome.

As soon as it gets warm, here’s a recommendation: Pop in Happy Gilmore on a Saturday morning and head out afterwards to your local muni. I guarantee you’ll be at least seriously tempted to grip it and rip it Gilmore style, if only just once when no one’s looking. And if you’re like the 14-year-old version of me, you’ll decide to do it at a prestigious local country club, when everyone is looking. Looking back, that was probably a bad idea.

2. Tin Cup (1996; Dir. by Ron Shelton and starring Kevin Costner, Renee Russo, Don Johnson and Cheech Martin)


Roy McAvoy: “I hit it again because that shot was a defining moment, and when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment … or the moment defines you.

And we come to our first agonizing decision. Tin Cup is more like a 1A than a #2 on this list. You’ll understand when you get to #1 that it was simply the only reasonable move, but that doesn’t make it any easier putting Tin Cup in the runner-up slot.

Cup has everything: hilarious quotes, great characters, and stellar golf scenes. It also has the greatest gift to sports fans the acting world has ever given: Kevin Costner. Costner is, without question, the most believable actor-athlete of all time. It’s not even close. Look at the guy’s resume: Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game, Tin Cup, Bull Durham … are you kidding me? Four of those five movies will likely land in Friday’s top-25 list. Costner’s just that good, and Cup is one of his best.

1. Caddyshack (1980; Dir. by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight)


Ty Webb: “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.

Every once in a while a movie comes along that for whatever reason is damn near perfect. The script is brilliant, the casting impeccable, and every actor is firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you know: Animal House, Dumb & Dumber, Jaws, The Godfather: Part II, Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting – these are all examples. Some movies just hit every possible cue, kneed every last pressure point, and master all possible angles. When everything comes together like that, what you have is a flick that you can never watch too often, a movie you can never see too many times. Caddyshack is one of those movies.

Once upon a time, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray were three of the funniest guys on the planet. In the intervening years, each, for a variety of reasons, has fallen from the spotlight. Chase is on a middling sitcom and hasn’t opened a movie in years. Murray’s career is stuck somewhere between weird comedy (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) and odd drama (Lost in Translation). And Dangerfield, god rest his under-appreciated soul, is dead. But in 1980, all three were at the peak of their respective powers and somehow, someway Harold Ramis rounded up all of them in Illinois to make Caddyshack. The result is one of the funniest movies in history, and easily one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

If you haven’t seen it (and I can’t imagine anyone reading this who hasn’t) run – don’t walk – to the nearest Best Buy and get the DVD. It is spectacularly funny, filled with quotes that can be (and have been) usefully repeated in every conceivable social situation. There’s Chase’s absurd improvisations (Remember Danny – two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left) and Dangerfield’s brilliant one-liners (Oh this is your wife, huh? Lovely lady. Hey baby, you must’ve been something before electricity). There’s Ted Knight’s underrated performance as super-WASP Judge Smails (I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them). And last but certainly not least, there’s Bill Murray as assistant greenskeeper Carl Spackler.

Murray’s flower-busting play-by-play (This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta’ nowhere. Former greenskeeper now about to become the masters champion) has been canonized in Hollywood history, and his Dalai Lama riff (So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice) is comedy legend. But it’s the lesser-discussed Spackler scenes, like the one where Murray and Chase share a cannonball and a “Bob Marley joint” in Spackler’s garage/home (Pool and a pond. Pond would be good for you though) that make Caddyshack what it is.

And what Caddyshack is … is immortal. And enlivened. And laugh-your-ass-off hilarious. So watch it, please, if you haven’t. And if you have, watch it again. And again and again, like I have.

It is, after all, the greatest golf movie ever made.

  1. Must have been a really thin list to have bagger vance make the top 5…. but at least you made me rack my brain to try and remember Jack Lemmon (the old guy with the flashback!) Good call on Caddy Shack though, tough but deserving choice over Tin Cup.

    Judge Smails: “You know, you should play with Dr. Beeper and myself. I mean, he’s been club champion for three years running and I’m no slouch myself.”

    Ty: “Don’t sell yourself short judge. You’re a tremendous slouch.”

  2. Jut a fantastic list you got going here, although i gotta disagree with the #1 ranking. Tin Cup is in my top 3 sports movies of all time, just not a lotta guys out there with a bigger set of cujones that ole Roy McCavoy.

  3. The Greatest Game Ever Played should be above Bagger. That is my only beef. Dead on with Caddyshack as No. 1.

  4. Just wait til Lifetime and BET come together with Elin to produce a made-for-TV movie about me.

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