It’s no surprise that golf tournaments make for an excellent theme when it comes to sporting movies. The inherent competition provides space for conflict and character development, as well as physical comedy and intense drama. Indeed, these three movies are often rated as some of the best sports movies of all time by critics and audiences – let alone just golf movies. From the first big hits to the final climactic shots, these movies are responsible some of the greatest silver screen golfing moments of all time.
Not hugely appreciated on its 1980s release, Caddyshack has nevertheless become a comedy cult classic over the years and is regularly featured in top 100 lists of the best comedies or 80s movies in general. Starring Bill Murray, National Lampoon’s Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield, Caddyshack is basically a comedy vehicle for some of the funniest minds of the decade. No-one is safe from Ghostbusters director Harold Ramis’ satirical eye as he mocks every aspect of the sport from the country club owners to the caddies, the groundskeepers and the players themselves. However, it is all done with what one can tell is a deeply held love for the game – as even the director himself noted his annoyance that none of the actors could swing a golf club properly.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
For something a bit more serious, almost the kind of melodrama that Caddyshack mocked relentlessly, this 2005 movie portrays the burgeoning career of Francis Ouimet – one of the game’s oldest legends, from way back in the early 1900s. A decidedly family friendly movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played celebrates victory from adversity and class dynamics. Starring a young Shia LeBeouf in the main role, this is a great movie to watch if you want to learn about the 1913 Masters Tournament and what made Ouimet’s exciting underdog victory into such a historic moment in the development of the sport.
Always a controversial one, seeing as Adam Sandler’s main character is such a massively unsympathetic idiot in many scenes of the movie, Happy Gilmore is nevertheless the most commercially successful golfing movie of all time – and therefore deserves a spot on this list. ‘He doesn’t play golf, he destroys it’ says the film’s tagline, and that can tell you a lot about what Happy Gilmore sets out to do.
The film follows the story of the titular character, an aspiring hockey player with barely any skills but an astonishingly strong slapshot, as he attempts to use that talent for driving a ball very far to get into the majors and pay off his grandmother’s debt. Widely panned by critics, it is nevertheless loved by many golf fans and was hugely successful at the box office – making nearly four times its budget of $12 million in the opening weekend. Irish professional golf legend (and European Ryder Cup captain in 2020) Padraig Harrington is known to be a big fan of the movie and has even practiced the ‘Happy Gilmore’ flailing drive swing in major tournaments before.