We are going to review the top 15 golf movies of all time, but within that list there are really 4 movies that stand out. Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore, and The Legend of Bagger Vance each transcend the “sports movie” category and are great movies in their own right. If you’re my age or younger (I was born in 1978) then chances are you think Happy Gilmore is the funniest movie on this list. If you were born even 2 years before me, then Caddyshack is probably your go-to funny golf movie. The truth is, we are all right.
The following list of Best Golf Movies and a synopsis to go with each are in no particular order. There are biographical sketches, comedies, dramas, and almost everything in between. It just goes to show that golf really is a metaphor for life and you can learn so much about humanity through the game.
15 Best Golf Movies of All Time
An incredible cast including Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray and they are just as talented and funny in this movie as you would hope. Al Czervik (Dangerfield) is a real estate developer who is checking out a local country club as a possible investment. A local corrupt judge (Ted Knight) does not like the brash and loud real estate developer and challenges him to a match, winner take all. Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) is the best local player in the city and is recruited by Czervik to join his team which he eventually does. Of course Chevy Chase and Dangerfield win in the end, but it is the chaos that ensues and the consistently funny one-liners that make this movie great. Throw in Bill Murray as the greenskeeper and his nemesis, the gopher, and you have one of the funniest golf movies ever made.
Caddyshack 2, 1988
Sports Illustrated called Caddyshack 2 “one of the worst sequels ever made” and I cannot disagree. One of the funniest things about Caddyshack was how “imperfectly funny” it was and that is hard to duplicate. The cast is different, the story is the same, and the end result is some funny parts in an otherwise disappointing film.
In the movie, a self-made millionaire is denied entrance into a local country club by the “old money” establishment that runs it. He then purchases the club after which the members begin to meddle in his business affairs leading to another winner-take-all golf match. There are some great actors in the film including Chevy Chase, Dan Akyroyd, Jessica Lundy, and Randy Quaid that could have saved the movie. However, both Bill Murray and the magic of the first movie just never show up in the sequel.
Tin Cup, 1996
While Tin Cup is listed as a romantic comedy, it has a little bit of everything. Kevin Costner and Cheech Marin are great together and the addition of Rene Russo sets up a dynamic cast of characters. On top of that, Don Johnson plays a great antagonist that embodies what is wrong in the hierarchy of golf.
Roy McAvoy (Costner) is a supremely talented head case on the golf course. He plays the game with abandon and lives his life the same way. David Simms (Johnson) is the conservative golfer that plays golf and lives life “not to lose” rather than to win. McAvoy, after years of being down on his luck, finally gets his shot to qualify for the US Open and, after a case of the “yips”, plays a couple of dominant rounds to get him to the top of the leaderboard. The ending scene is one of the best in sports movie history, you do not want to miss it.
Happy Gilmore, 1996
Happy Gilmore is one of if not the funniest golf movie ever. Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, and Carl Weathers make up a great cast and the writing and comedic timing is top notch. The premise is ridiculous, but the one-liners and outlandish humor work together to make a really good and really funny movie.
Happy Gilmore (Sandler) is a hockey player that does not have the talent to make hockey a career. He fights a lot and has a great slap shot, but he cannot skate. He has found himself down on his luck and needing money when he finds out that his slap-shot skill translates into incredible power on the golf course. The rest of the movie is spent trying to harness that power into an all-around game and transforming a stereotypical hockey player into a stereotypical golfer.
The Greatest Game Ever Played, 2005
Shia LaBeouf plays Francis Ouimet, the first amateur to ever win the US Open Golf Championship. The movie is based on the true story of the 1913 US Open that pitted Francis Ouimet against British Pros Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) and Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus) in an 18-hole playoff. Ouimet goes on to win the playoff by sinking a putt on the 18th to become the first amateur to win the tournament.
This is a movie about how your social class and lot in life can affect the opportunities that you have. The game of golf, especially at the turn of the century, is portrayed to be ruled by the elite. Particularly, British golfers and upper class Americans wanted to show the rest of the world that golf was their sport. Ouimet overcomes many obstacles, including his own father’s pride, to show that anyone can win if they desire something and work for it. The final scene is redemptive, dramatic, and worth watching.
The Legend of Bagger Vance, 2000
I will watch almost anything that Will Smith or Matt Damon are in, and for them to star together and alongside Charlize Theron was a recipe that could not really go wrong. The movie does not disappoint. Bagger Vance (Smith) is a mystical caddy that comes along to help Rannulph Junuh rediscover the game that he once had before going to war.
The movie is set in the old south and is a match between Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones that Junuh joins because he was a legend in the area. Destined for greatness on the golf course, Junuh’s entire company is wiped out on a WWI battlefield. Disillusioned with life, and golf more specifically, Junuh is just living out his days without purpose until he is asked to play in this match. The movie is about the struggle of getting his life back together and how help from an unlikely source, his caddy that appeared out of nowhere, helped him rediscover his life.
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, 2004
Very few golfers reach the status of “legend” and one of the first to do that was Bobby Jones. Jim Caviezel plays the legendary golfer and portrays his unassuming rise to greatness, his humility in both the game and his life, and his attitude in retirement at the early age of 28.
Bobby Jones was one of the greatest to play the game, and the only player to win all 4 major championships in the same season (1930). He won the Georgia Amateur championship in 1916 at the age of 14, and overcame his temper issues to win his first major, the US Open, in 1923. By the time 1930 rolled around, he had already won 3 US Opens, 4 US Amateurs, and 2 Open Championships. Bobby Jones retired from tournament play before ever turning pro and became an attorney by profession. This movie is the great story of a very interesting life.
Seven Days in Utopia, 2011
Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) is an up and coming professional golfer with all of the potential in the world. In one of his first tournaments, the Texas Open, Chisholm has a meltdown and shoots an 80 in the final round. This meltdown on the course results in a meltdown in his life and he ultimately hits rock bottom when he crashes into a fence of a rancher in Utopia, TX.
That ranch belongs to Johnny Crawford (Robert Duval) who makes Chisholm an offer he can’t refuse. If Chisholm will stay with him for one week, Crawford promises to change his life and help him to get back on track. One of the best quotes of the movie is when Duval is praying before a meal and says, “Thank you for faith in a world filled with fear.” That faith, and how it can change your life, is what this golf movie is about.
A Gentleman’s Game, 2002
Do you play merely to win, or do you play because you genuinely love the game? This film uses the game of golf to take a hard look at what really matters in life, and it is more than winning.
Timmy Price (Mason Gamble) is a 14-year old boy whose father is an avid golfer and a member of a prestigious country club. Price wants to learn the game to impress his father who shows very little interest in his son. Price goes on to learn the game himself and finds a mentor in Foster Pearse (Gary Sinese) who played in and one a single tournament in his career. Pearse reveals a secret as to why he stopped playing and encourages Price to pursue the game because he enjoys it and for no other reason.
The Caddy, 1953
With the likes of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, The Caddy boasts the most legendary cast of any golf film in history. On top of that, Dean Martin’s song “That’s Amore” debuted in this film and is still one of the most recognized songs in the world today, almost 70 years after its first hearing. In the end, the film is a slapstick comedy common to the time and of the actors, but it is definitely worth the watch.
Harvey Miller, Jr (Lewis) is a supremely talented golfer with one flaw, he cannot play in front of other people. Rather than allow his talent to go to waste, he takes Joe Anthony (Martin) under his wing and becomes his caddy and mentor. While on the PGA Tour, their natural comedic talents are recognized, and the rest is history.
Dead Solid Perfect, 1988
A made for TV movie that was released on VHS in 1993 but never made it on DVD or Blu Ray. Dead Solid Perfect is a movie based on renowned sports’ fiction author Dan Jenkins’ book about the game of golf. Kenny Lee (Randy Quaid) is a hot and cold, albeit mostly cold, touring PGA professional. His game has been on the downswing for quite a while even prompting his quote, “I am the only player on tour who cannot make a putt.” Lee is also at odds with his wife who sees the way that he lives his life and wants something more. Lee tours the country with the goal of qualifying for and then winning the US Open both to save his career and his marriage. This is a comedy portraying some of the sites and courses that one might play to qualify for the US Open.
Follow The Sun: The Ben Hogan Story, 1951
Follow the Sun is a fictionalization of Ben Hogan life. Going from his struggles as a young golfer to compete amidst the crowds and in the spotlight to being one of the great champions of the game.
At one point in the film, Hogan and his wife come close to quitting the tour altogether because of his struggles and financial hardship. His wife talked him out of it, he won $285 at his next tournament, and the rest is history. This is a film about how one of the greatest golfers of all time struggled to interact with people until the very end of his career. When a car crash took away his ability to play, it was the fans who sent letter after letter of encouragement and Hogan learned that golf is more than just winning, it is about the people as well.
Tommy’s Honour, 2016
Tommy’s Honour is based on the true story of “Old Tom Morris” and “Young Tom Morris” who were Scottish golfers that both changed the game of golf.
A history piece set in late 1800s Scotland, Old Tom was a pioneer of the game. He created and one the first Open Championship, he established the standard 18-hole round that golfers continue to play to this day, and he was well-known club and ball maker as well. Young Tom begins playing the game his father loved and soon outshines even him winning the Open Championship 3 times in a row as a teenager. The two clash over social class etiquette and Young Tom eventually marries a woman that his father does not approve of. Old Tom makes a fatal error that strips Young Tom of everything and Old Tom lives the rest of his life trying to honour his son.
The Founders, 2016
A documentary that chronicles the stories of the 13 women credited with founding the LPGA. There is old footage, interviews with the athletes, and discussions with golf commentators who speak of the importance of these 13 women to the game of golf. The LPGA was founded in the late 1940s and is the longest professional sports organization for women in the world. The women in this film compete in an intensely individual sport, against each other, while at the same time working together to get the league off of the ground. The PGA Tour was going strong and the men played in front of thousands of adoring fans each week. The women, on the other hand, worked for everything that they got and did whatever they had to do to make sure the LPGA started and lasted.
Golf in The Kingdom, 2010
Golf in the Kingdom is a mystical story of an American philosophy student who has decided to quit the game of golf. He is traveling to India in 1956 when he decides to stop at the Links of Burningbush in Scotland for one last round before he hangs up his spikes. It is here that he meets Shivas Irons (David O’Hara). Irons is a “mystical golfing expert” that appears to Michael Murphy (Mason Gamble) over a 24 hour time period. The movie attempts to make the connection between zen and golf and describes how reaching inner peace can help a person in life and on the course as well.
That’s A Wrap
There are some really good golf movies and there are some really bad ones as well. There is something about the game that sets up for great cinematic moments like the end of Tin Cup and hilarious characters like Happy Gilmore and Shooter McGavin. The magic of Bagger Vance, the greatness of Bobby Jones, and the story of The Founders speak to golf’s greatness. If you have ever hit the “perfect shot” or played the “perfect round” when everything just came together, then you know why golf movies are special and why they can be great.