The Ten Best Golf Movies of All Time

top ten golf movies
“It’s alive, this swing, a living sculpture...”
Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) Tin Cup    

As the end of summer approaches, and the golf season begins to wind down, it's time to think about how you are going to while away those long winter evenings when you can't get out onto the fairway.

Sure, you can polish up your clubs. You can go down to the indoor driving range and practice your swing. You can set up a putting green in your living room - or maybe in your office - and practice your putts.

You might even get out a road map and plot a cross-country golfing adventure, taking in some of the famous golf courses that you've always dreamed of playing.

But if all that sounds like too much work, and you're more inclined to kick back with a beer, put your feet up and watch TV, then golf movies are a great way to keep yourself in the golfing loop without actually having to do anything.

From Comedy to Drama

Everyone has a golf story. Well...at least anyone who plays golf.

And like every other sport in creation, golf has had its fair share of movies made about it: from intelligent dramas and action-packed adventures, to historical biopics and, of course, comedies.

So let's run through what we think are the 10 greatest golf movies of all time.

And let's kick off with what is probably the most famous, and most oft-quoted, golf comedy of all time: the 1980 Harold Ramis movie Caddyshack.

Caddyshack (1980)

Described by ESPN as “perhaps the funniest sports movie ever made”, Caddyshack was the directorial debut of Harold Ramis who, until then had been a writer (Animal House and Meatballs), actor and producer. 

Caddyshack follows the chaotic misadventures of a bunch of caddies, players and sundry hangers-on at the fictional Bushwood Country Club.

The script drew on the real life experience of Ramis and co-writer Brian Doyle Murray’s days as country club caddies during their time as university students. 

The cast included then teen heart-throb Michael O’Keefe, Chevy Chase, and stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Chase and Dangerfield apparently ad-libbed so much of the dialogue that they ended up overshadowing O’keefe who was supposed to be the movie’s star. 

Not Crazy About Gophers

Bill Murray’s character, Karl Spackler, steals the show as he matches wits with a demonic gopher through the course of the movie. As the trailer puts it: “he’s not crazy about gophers...but he is crazy.” 

Pat and Mike

Providing a glimpse into the world of 1950s professional golf, Pat and Mike follows the story of a talented golfer, played by Katharine Hepburn, who is discouraged from playing by her controlling fiance. As the story unfolds, Hepburn’s character teams up with a sports promoter played by Spencer Tracy.

This was one of 9 movies in which Tracy and Hepburn acted together, and this particular romantic comedy won an Oscar nomination for it's script.

Hepburn was an avid golfer, and also an extremely talented tennis player. She played all of the sporting scenes in the movie herself, and in doing so, she displayed her professional athletic abilities to great effect.

Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.

This 2004 biopic follows the story of one of the all-time greatest golfers. 

Bobby Jones, played by Jim Caviezel, remains the only player to win all four men's major championships in one year.

This was the first golf movie to be given permission to film at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland, the spiritual home of golf. 

It follows Jones' life from his early years in Atlanta, where he watched and learned from professional golfers, and competed in amateur championships, through his college years during which he earned a law degree. 

Jones learns to overcome his issues with temper tantrums and concentration, to win the four major championships before retiring at the age of 28. 

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Set during the depression, Robert Redford's sentimental homage to golf stars Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charleze Theron, along with Jack Lemmon’s final movie performance.

The story unfolds in a flashback narrated by Hardy Greaves (Lemmon) during a heart attack. He explains that his love for the game was kindled during his childhood, when he idolized a pro golfer called Rannulph Junuh (played by Damon). Junuh comes from a wealthy Savannah Georgia family but has been traumatised by the things that he experienced during World War 1. 

Junuh is encouraged by the young Greaves to play in a charity golf match organised by his (Junhu’s) ex-girlfriend, played by Charlize Theron. While trying to hit golf balls at night, Junuh is visited by a mysterious man (Will Smith), who identifies himself as Bagger Vance, and who says he will be Junuh’s caddy

The story follows the usual redemption journey as Bagger inspires Junuh to win the match. On the 18th hole, Bagger hands over the role of caddy to the young Greaves, and mysteriously disappears. 

The story concludes with Junuh winning the golf match, getting back together with his girl and saving the day. The old Grieve awakens and sees Bagger Vance, unchanged after all the years, beckoning to him on a golf course. 

Tin Cup

Kevin Costner had already made a couple of highly-acclaimed sports movies (Field of Dreams and Bull Durham) when he signed on to play washed up pro golfer Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy.

Now working as a cynical driving range instructor, Costner’s character is goaded into competing in the US Open by a  top professional golfer, played by Don Johnson. As the story progresses, McAvoy begins a relationship Johnson's girlfriend, played by Rene Russo 

On the last day of the tournament, McAvoy is in a three-way battle to win the Open but repeatedly fails to keep the ball out of a water hazard. It all concludes with a happy ending though: McAvoy gets the girl and qualifies for the following year's tournament. 

A Story Within a Story

Incidentally, one of the stars of the movie, Cheech Marin, recounts a story involving Phil Mickelson, one of the pro golfers who has a cameo in the movie. 

“We were between scenes,” Marin told golf.com. “Someone came up with a bet. There was this really tall pine tree. And someone said to Phil Mickelson, ‘I bet you can't put your shoulder against the tree, drop a ball and hit it over the tree.’” 

“The shot basically had to go straight up,” Marin continues. “Everybody threw in a hundred bucks. I think there was twelve hundred dollars in the pot. And he did it. While the ball was still in the air, Mickelson bent over, picked up the money and put it in his pocket.”

The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Set in 1913, this film depicts a time when golf was a rich man’s sport and working class players were frowned-upon by the snobbish and opinionated professional players.

Against his father's wishes, 20-year-old self-taught amateur golfer Francis Ouimet, played by Shia LaBeouf, enters the US Open with a 10-year-old caddy to carry his clubs.

Based on a true story, this inspirational tale follows Ouimet’s rise from a 7-year-old who develops a love of golf, to his eventual win in the US Open.

Happy Gilmore 

Every non-golfer who has ever picked up a club has tried the famous run-and-swing technique from Happy Gilmore

Adam Sandler’s comedies are generally sickly sweet affairs, however Happy Gilmore is widely regarded as one of his better works.

Sandler's titular character is an unsuccessful ice hockey player who’s only skill is a powerful “slap-shot” and a tendency towards violence. Kicked out of his hockey team, Gilmore discovers that he has a talent for golf. He brings the rough-and-tumble attitude of the ice hockey field onto the golf course and hilarity ensues.

After finding out that his grandmother owes the IRS $270,000, Happy Gilmore competes as a professional where he fights (literally) his way to the top, wins all the money and rescues his granny from the clutches of the IRS. 

The Caddy

If you thought Harold Ramis invented the golf buddy movie, think again. This black and white, 1953 outing, was a vehicle for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

Lewis plays the son of a pro golfer who works as a golf instructor but can't play due to his fear of choking on the fairway. Dean Martin plays his client, who gets good enough to play the pro circuit, and drags Lewis along as his caddy.

Antics aplenty ensue, along with the first airing of Martin’s immortal song That’s Amore.

Several of the world’s pro golfers from the era make cameo appearances in the movie, so golf historians will enjoy this snapshot of golfing history.

Seven Days in Utopia

When a young golfer, Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black), whose game is affected by his temper tantrums, crashes his car on retired golfer Johnny Crawford’s property, Crawford (played by Robert Duvall) offers to coach him in order to help him rediscover his game. 

During a week that Duval”s character describes as “seven days in Utopia”, Chisholm overcomes his weaknesses, and finds redemption in his love of the game.

Tommy’s Honour

Based on the book Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf’s Founding Father and Son, the movie adaptation of the story won Best Feature Film at the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards.

Set in Scotland in 1866, the story follows 15 year-old Tommy Morris, an avid golfer just like his father.  Old Tom is now the greenskeeper for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. 

In his heyday, the old Tommy had been a champion golfer and established golf’s standard of 18 holes per around. 

But the young Tommy begins to rebel against his father and soon outshines him. This “dashing young man of golf” draws flocks of spectators and becomes the game’s first touring professional

Throughout the movie, father and son repeatedly clash over various unwritten rules around social class and the standards of the game of golf.

Stories For the Rainy Days

So there you have it. Plenty of movies to keep you amused during the off-season, and help to keep you inspired for next summer on the greens. 

For more tips and tricks check out Back 2 Basics. You can find everything you need to know and more about the game of golf, as well as apparel, putting mirrors and rangefinders

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