The Best Golf Films of All Time
With its great views, potential for do-or-die daring and sneaky amount of high-octane thrills, it’s no surprise that golf has been the subject of some brilliant films. Some of these are comedies, like Happy Gilmore and Caddyshack, others are more serious and moving, such as The Legend of Bagger Vance. Whatever your interests and tastes, however, chances are there’s a golf movie for you. When the course is closed or you just want to swap the clubs for a stint on the sofa, these are the golf films you should watch.
Tin Cup (1996)
Everyone who’s ever taken on a risky dog leg or fired over a water hazard when they shouldn’t have will sympathise with the hero of Tin Cup, Roy McAvoy, who couldn’t play it safe if his life depended on it. When chance puts the beautiful Dr. Molly Griswold on his driving range asking him for a lesson, however, the viewer is left wishing he just might. Unfortunately, Molly is dating Roy’s nemesis David Simms, whose course management has earned him a lucrative career on the PGA Tour. You can probably guess what happens. After being humiliated by Simms and falling for Molly, ‘Cup’ enters qualifying for the US Open, earning a pop at the big time and Molly’s heart. Fun thrills aplenty in this classic golfing flick.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
Tin Cup has plenty of comedy, but this pales against the knockabout farce that is Happy Gilmore. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll know lead character Happy’s (played by Adam Sandler) crazy swing, in which he runs up to the ball and hits it with his legs still whirring. The film also has one of the best golf movie villains of all time in ‘Shooter’ McGavin. “Damn you people! This is golf! Not a rock concert!” is just one of several golden McGavin lines.
The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
Most people know the Greatest Game Ever Played from Mark Frost’s excellent book of the same name. But did you know it was adapted into a 2005 film? For those who don’t know the story, the movie (and book) recounts the tale of the first ever amateur to win the US Open, Francis Ouimet. It’s a remarkable tale of David toppling Goliath (Ouimet beat the dominant English players of the time, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, to win the title) and pluck coming good in the face of adversity. Of course, Hollywood hammed things up for the movie version, but an excellent lead performance from Shia LaBeouf makes it work.
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
The Legend of Bagger Vance copped criticism when it was released, but if you get over the occasional lazy stereotype, there’s plenty in the film to be enjoyed. First, it’s got an excellent plot – centring around the riches-to-rags-to-riches-again trajectory of traumatised war veteran and local amateur Rannulph Junuh in a charity match with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. Secondly, it has some brilliant acting, particularly from Bruce McGill as Sir Walter, who really captures his glamour and swagger.
What many regard as the greatest golf film ever needs no introduction. It says it all that Tiger Woods says he would listen to the Caddyshack theme song on his perfect day.
Seve: The Movie (2016)
Everyone’s favourite golfer gets a biopic. We all know Seve as the charismatic totem of European golf, but before he was a superstar he was just another young boy from Pedrena, sneaking on to his local golf course in rural Spain. This isn’t the most factually-accurate film, nor does it have the tightest of plots. Still, as a dramatisation of the great Spaniard’s childhood and the path that he walked to become the figure that we know and love today, it’s a classic.
Follow the Sun (1951)
Before Seve, there was Ben Hogan, the subject of the ‘original’ golfing biopic in 1951. I’m a little ashamed to say I haven’t actually watched this – it was before my time and I’ve a busy schedule – but I have it on the good authority of a sagely relative that it’s an excellent screen. Purists, however, may be put off by Hollywood’s fast and loose relationship to the truth.
Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk (2019)
Loopers has been reviewed on these pages before, and with good reason – it’s absolutely brilliant. All too often caddies are the forgotten warriors on the golf course, playing bridesmaid to the more illustrious players whose bags they haul. Loopers, which tells the history of caddying through pieced together interviews with famous caddies and more workaday bag carriers alike, does important work in spotlighting their story.
Tommy’s Honour (2017)
Tommy’s Honour clinches the final spot on this list. Passionately done, and incredibly moving – as with all the best non-comedic golf films, there’s much more to this movie than just sport – Tommy’s Honour does right by Pamela Marin and Kevin Cook’s 2007 book that made the list of The Telegraph’s list of 50 best sport books ever written. And its rugged landscape shots of coastal Scotland are tough to beat.
What is your favourite golf movie, or is there one that we have missed? Let us know!
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