Big-Screen Swings: 12 Favorite Golf Movies

Bill Murray and the gopher in Caddyshack
Bill Murray never did get that gopher in Caddyshack - it danced to "I'm Alright" in the closing credits. Orion Pictures/Getty Images

What are the best golf movies? There are probably more golf movies out there than most people realize. Our game has long been a popular subject for film. Here are 12 of the best golf movies yet made ... which doesn't necessarily mean they are all gems! But it does mean that they have been and will continue to be enjoyed by many golfers on movie night.

'Caddyshack'

Detail from the movie poster for Caddyshack

Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

 

If you poll golfers (and we have) about their favorite movie, Caddyshack wins in a landslide. The actors: Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, Ted Knight and Rodney Daingerfield. The characters: Carl Spackler, Judge Smails, Ty Webb, Noonan, Al Czervik, Lacey Underall, the Bishop. Oh, and that pesky, dancing gopher. They're all here.

This isn't just the most popular golf movie ever made, it's a cult classic even outside of the golf community. (Don't bother with any of the sequels: they are uniformly terrible.)

'The Greatest Game Ever Played'

The Greatest Game Ever Played - 6
Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

This moved, based on the Mark Frost book of the same name, hit theaters in 2005. It tells the true story of young amateur and caddie Francis Ouimet (played by Shia LaBeouf) and his triumph over British stalwarts Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at the 1913 U.S. Open. That's a victory widely credited with popularizing golf in the United States, and it lends itself to a movie about the scrappy underdog coming through to beat the upper crust.

'Tin Cup'

From the opening song by the Texas Tornadoes (A Little Bit is Better than Nada) to the U.S. Open showdown with Don Johnson, this Kevin Costner vehicle strikes the perfect pitch. It helps that Costner can actually play golf. And it helps that Cheech is around, too.

Most famous scene: When Costner keeps hitting ball after ball into a water hazard in front of the green just to prove (eventually) that he can make that shot, rather than simply dropping behind the hazard.

'Dead Solid Perfect'

This movie starring Randy Quaid is all about life on the pro tours. It's based on the book of the same name by Dan Jenkins, a book that many consider the best golf novel ever written. It was produced by HBO and has a soundtrack by Tangerine Dream (probably Jenkins' favorite band ... not!) Quaid is a struggling pro golfer chasing the dream.

'Happy Gilmore'

The Bob Barker fist fight scene from Happy Gilmore movie
Bob Barker and Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) throw down. Universal/Getty Images

Name another movie that features appearances by both Bob Barker and Lee Trevino. Go ahead, I dare ya! Can't do it — this is the only one. Whether you're a fan of Adam Sandler or not, you'll enjoy this nutty flick about a hockey player whose slapshot produces prodigious golf drives. It's inspired many YouTube videos of golfers (including pros) trying to replicate Happy's run-up drive. Most famous scene: Fisticuffs with the elderly Barker.

'Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius'

The life story of Bobby Jones stars Jim Caviezel. A bit overwrought, and Caviezel doesn't replicate Jones' swing very well ... but then, who among us does? The movie traces Jones' growth from a hot-tempered youth who struggled to win the big one to the most-famous golfer (and one of the most famous people) on the planet.

'Pat and Mike'

Pat and Mike is a Tracy-Hepburn movie. Katherine Hepburn wants to win her club championship, but her boorish husband is, well, a jerk. Enter Spencer Tracy, who's a little bit of a shady operator but smitten with Hepburn. It's a comedy directed by George Cukor. Hepburn, Tracy, Cukor — that's quite a three-ball. You'll enjoy this more if you love watching old movies.

'The Caddy'

Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Donna Reed in The Caddy
Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Donna Reed in 'The Caddy.'. Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

How do you feel about Jerry Lewis? If you hate Jerry Lewis movies, well ... The Caddy is a Jerry Lewis movie, so it's definitely not for everyone. Actually, it's a Martin-Lewis movie from 1953, with Lewis playing a golfer afraid of crowds. So he becomes an instructor and helps Dean Martin gain fame as a pro golfer ... and they wind up as a comedy team in the end. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson are among the golfers who make cameos.

'The Legend of Bagger Vance'

Will Smith and Matt Damon in a scene from The Legend of Bagger Vance
Will Smith and Matt Damon in a scene from 'The Legend of Bagger Vance'. David James/Newsmakers/Getty Images

I'm not the biggest fan of that whole golf-as-mysticism stuff. So the plot of this movie doesn't do much for me. But Will Smith and Matt Damon are extremely likable actors. Throw in Charlize Theron and, even if the plot isn't much, you at least have plenty to look at.

'Follow the Sun'

Glenn Ford stars in the life story of Ben Hogan. And Ford does a terrible job capturing the personality and swing of Hogan. But if you like sappy sports movies — you know the type: hero takes a fall then triumphantly wins in the end — this will be up your alley.

'Tommy's Honour'

This movie had a limited theatrical run early in 2017 and was released on DVD and for streaming later in that year. It tells the story of golf's first superstar, the man we remember today as Young Tom Morris. Jack Lowden stars as Young Tom, and the cast also includes Sam Neill.

'The Short Game'


This is the only documentary included in our list of the best golf movies. Released in 2013, The Short Game follows 7- and 8-year-old golfers who travel to Pinehurst Resort for the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. It was produced by Jessica Biel and her golf-fanatic husband Justin Timberlake. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Annika Sorenstam make appearances.

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