Golfers are a different breed, there’s no denying that. Non-golfers simply can’t understand why we choose to spend so much time infuriatingly chasing a little white ball into a hole. Why some of us choose to be tortured by the unrelenting frustrations of the hardest game in the world that have cost many of us romantic relationships, our jobs and even financial ruin defies logic. Outsiders simply don’t get it.
The same goes for our tastes in movies about this maddening game as well. When we crack jokes about “the world needing ditch diggers too” and “go to your home ball,” non-golfers look at us like we must have escaped the local mental institution. That’s fine. Let the haters hate. The fact of the matter is that we would rather settle in for evening on the couch watching A Stroke of Genius for the 82nd time than we would go to some fancy wine pairing dinner with a beautiful date. I know, I speak from experience.
Having spent much of the winter buried in the Pacific Northwest winter unable to get out and play, I logged some serious hours on the couch and came up with my list of the best golf movies of all-time below. You may disagree with the order of my ranking but that’s ok. The important thing is that we don’t let these movies be forgotten anytime soon.
#10 – Caddyshack Two
Caddyshack Two is a must watch for any serious golfer… But only once. The sequel to what many golfers say is the most iconic golf movie ever, Caddyshack, there might not be a bigger letdown in the history of film than Caddyshack Two. While there is some slapstick comedy and a few quirky moments, this movie does a terrible injustice to the original. In the end, watching it is kind of like seeing your in-laws, you hate it but it’s something you have to do.
#9 – A Gentleman’s Game
Released in 2001, a Gentleman’s game is a story that easily resonates with golfers. Mason Gamble plays a young prodigy from humble beginnings that caddies at the local country club surrounded by blue bloods. With the help of his dad and a has-been local legend, Gamble experiences the highs and lows of golf and life as he prepares for the Junior Club Championship. He quickly learns that the exclusive country club and his mentor aren’t what they appear to be on the surface.
The golf in this movie is credible and if you enjoy a flick with multiple subplots and cliché life lessons, A Gentleman’s Game is right up your alley.
#8 – Seven Days in Utopia
I’m a huge fan of Robert Duvall and my girlfriend wants to have Lucas Black’s children so naturally this a golf movie I could convince her to watch with me. When Luke Chisolm (Black) is publicly humiliated after a tournament loss he drives his car into a fence in Utopia, Texas. A rancher and former touring pro (Duvall) finds Chisolm alongside the road and convinces him to spend a week in the sleepy Texas town and promises it will be life-changing.
What follows is a little far-fetched for my taste but if you like feel-good stories about burying your past and creating a future, this is movie blends the game and some thought-provoking themes and subplots.
#7 – The Legend of Bagger Vance
It’s tough to wrong with Will Smith and Matt Damon and the Legend of Bagger Vance isn’t an exception. The acting is phenomenal and the plot will keep your attention throughout.
When a local legend (Damon) is summoned by his ex-lover and socialite to play a high-stakes match against the game’s greats during the Great Depression his game is in rough shape. That’s until Bagger Vance (Smith) comes along and works his magic.
I won’t spoil the ending for you but just be forewarned, the golf scenes in this movie are a little out there. But the historical context and romantic subplots make this underdog story one worth watching.
#6 – Happy Gilmore
If you haven’t seen Happy Gilmore you can’t call yourself a golfer. The movie is a classic and Adam Sandler doesn’t disappoint. Sure, it’s a little corny but who can forget Happy getting his butt kicked by Bob Barker (think Price is Right) or his homeless caddy washing his underwear in the ball washer? And what about the Odyssey hockey stick that Happy putts with?
Sure, Happy Gilmore is a feel-good story but more than anything else it’s a timeless classic. Even though it’s not what you would call a real thinker, it’s worth taking the time to watch every now and again for sentimental reasons if nothing else.
#5 – Dead, Solid, Perfect
This is one of my favorite golf movies of all-time as it gives a fairly accurate depiction of what life is like for the quintessential struggling tour pro. Dennis Quaid is the main character and, like many struggling tour pros, his personal life and finances are in shambles. After his wife leaves him, Quaid meets a drunken, racist, sexist financial sponsor with more money than brains who agrees to help him pursue his dream of playing in the U.S. Open.
If you’ve ever wondered what life is like for the characters in golf’s minor leagues, Dead, Solid, Perfect is a must watch. It can be difficult to find but trust me, it’s well worth the effort.
#4 – Bobby Jones Stroke of Genius
As the title suggests, this movie is more or less a biography of Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur ever. The film begins with Jones playing The Old Course at St. Andrews on his way to Berlin for the 1936 Olympics. From here, Jones’ career and all his accomplishments are detailed in what is a wonderful tribute to my personal golfing hero. Historically accurate and something every serious golf fan needs to see at least once.
#3 – The Greatest Game Ever Played
If you fancy yourself a golf history buff, The Greatest Game Ever Played is a must see. Maybe you recognize the name Francis Ouimet. If you don’t that’s ok as he was one of the greatest amateurs to ever play but his story remains largely untold.
Born the son of working-class immigrants who despised everything the game of golf stood for, Ouimet begins caddying at The Country Club at Brookline to help make ends meet at an early age. He works on his game tirelessly and soon becomes a respected player.
When the President of the United States Golf Association shows up and personally invites him to play in the U.S. Open at his home course Ouimet jumps at the opportunity. But his father sees things differently. So much so that he tells Francis if he competes he will be kicked out of the house. What happens from here is a remarkable story and it’s apparent to any student of the game that the producers did their homework as this film is surprisingly historically accurate.
#2 – Caddyshack
Where do you begin where you’re talking about Caddyshack? Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and my own personal crush Cindy Morgan (who plays Lacey Underall) and a host of other actors come together and star in what is unquestionably the most recognizable golf movie of all time. It’s hard not to laugh at all the one-liners and quote them yourself when you’re giving your buddies a hard time.
Some of my favorites are:
“That’s a Peach Hone!”
“The world needs ditch diggers too Danny.”
“Gunga la Gunga.”
“You know what the best type of grass is? The kind you can play 36 holes on then come home and get stoned to the begesus.”
I could go on and on but I watch this cult classic every time it comes on television.
#1 – Tin Cup
There’s something about the down-and-out driving range pro from West Texas and his gang of outcasts that really strikes a chord in this movie about triumph and defeat. Not to mention there’s the all-star cast of Kevin Costner, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson and Rene Russo.
The storyline is one for the ages too. Filled with moments of hilarity, a David vs. Goliath plot and a steamy romance where the good guy gets the girl, Tin Cup is a movie that any golfer can identify with and it stands the test of time. My personal favorite. If you haven’t seen it for a while, go rent it.
There’s no denying that golf movies are belong in league all by themselves. Do they always have an all-star cast? No. Do they regularly get nominated for Academy Awards? No. Are the plots so riveting that you’re on the edge of your seat the entire movie? Not really. But to us social misfits that are obsessed with the hardest game in the world, they’re part of the culture that defines us. They afford us some levity in a game that all too often kicks us upside the head. So next time you’re frustrated and feel like joining the local bowling league, grab a cold one and bowl of popcorn – you’ll need it for sanity.
About the Author
Scott is a professional writer and has been a golfer his entire life. After playing at Oregon State University he spent time playing on the Gateway Professional Tour. Six subsequent years working as a Club Professional allowed Scott to pursue his passion of helping others become better players. Scott now spreads his love of golf through the written word as a full time author and copywriter.