On-par Movies

By Chelle Cordero

February 12, 2015 5 min read

Ask a crowd to name some great sports movies about golf and chances are you'll hear titles such as the slapstick funny movie "Caddyshack" (1980) featuring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight and a dancing gopher; funnyman Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore" (1996), where he's a fired angry hockey player turned pro-golfer trying to save his grandmother's home; and the drama/romantic-comedy "Tin Cup" (1996), starring Kevin Costner and Rene Russo with Costner playing against the boorish pro-golfer, defeating him and winning the girl in the end. Golf has been a popular movie subject for decades and was possibly inspired by the number of studio executives who regularly enjoyed the game; to this day golf is associated with success. The comedy sequel "Caddyshack 2" (1998), although still filled with laughs, wasn't remembered as a huge success in a poll about favorite golf movies.

"Follow the Sun" (1951), a biography of golfer Ben Hogan featuring Glenn Ford and Anne Baxter; and Pat and Mike (1952), a romantic comedy with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, are a couple of the earlier entries in the full-length golf-movie category. The 1942 short "Shoot Yourself Some Golf" starred Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman as a couple who learn the finer points of the game from real-life golf-pro Jimmy Thompson. In the comedy "The Caddy" (1953), starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Donna Reed, Lewis plays a shy golfer who becomes Martin's instructor.

Eighteen holes allow plenty of time for scriptwriters to write in a lot of variables, conflicts and nail-biting to spice up any movie plot. Often stereotypes are used to pit the social classes against one another, such as country club snobs vs. the help. Life lessons are learned in movies such a "A Gentleman's Game" (2001), where a young boy (Mason Gamble) learns the game of golf and life while caddying at an exclusive country club. Bobby Jones, "Stroke of Genius" (2004) is a tribute to golfing legend Bobby Jones and tells the story of ambition and success on the greens. "Seven Days in Utopia" (2011) with Robert Duvall is based on the book "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia" by David L. Cook; the story follows a pro-golfer while he hits bottom and climbs back up again.

Stories about sports stars can be uplifting and motivational; these are about people who strive to be better than their best and encourage the rest of us. Each golfer puts on an incredible display of showmanship. "Golf is like faith: It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; and not until it is personally experienced does the unbelieving change from the imprecatory to the precatory attitude," writes Arnold Haultain in "The Mystery of Golf." All sports movies, including golf, are popular during brutal snow-covered winters when amateur golfers hibernate in their homes; a good golf movie helps offer a reprieve from cabin fever as it puts the viewer on the green. Watching golf movies and catching glimpses of real-life pro-golfers in the usually large casts is also exciting for the viewers who are often fans of the sport. Of course, the manicured look of golf courses make for incredible movie backdrops.

There are several golf legends whose real life stories chronicle obstacles, heartbreak and inspirational achievements. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" (2005) is the true story of Francis Ouimet (Shia LeBeouf), a 20-year-old working-class caddy who goes from realizing his lifelong dream of defeating his idol, English champion Harry Vardon, to being the first amateur to win the 1913 U.S. Open. It's a classic underdog story that leaves you cheering in the end. "The Tiger Woods Story" (1998) tells the story of the life of the golfer growing up struggling with racism and cultural identity to becoming the youngest man to ever win a Masters. Even fictional accounts can be terrific motivators. "Dead Solid Perfect" (1988) was based on a novel written by American sportswriter Dan Jenkins and dealt with a "second-rate golfer who traversed the country trying desperately to make the PGA Tour, at the same time dealing with a foundering marriage and party-hearty lifestyle" and starred Randy Quaid, Kathryn Harrold and Jack Warden.

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