Unless you’re an avid golf fan, sitting down to watch every golf movie ever made might not seem like the best way to spend a long weekend, but for a golfer like myself, I couldn’t think of anything better. Ask my wife about golf, though; she thinks it’s a hobby, not even a sport, and more than that, golfers aren’t even athletes.
So to try and change her mind, we sat down with our snacks, no, not popcorn, but carrot, cucumber, and hummus, and we set out to watch the 10 best golf movies of all time.
Many of these golf movies are heartwarming stories about the rise and fall of golfers or, in some cases, their caddies. Some movies like Happy Gilmore are as funny as any comedy movie and have a cult following thanks to actor Adam Sandler. Some of the golf movies we watched depict action-packed drama that is measured in millimeters.
Included in this list of the top 10 best golf movies are documentaries, Hollywood blockbusters, biopics, and comedies. It’s not until you watch some of the golfing classics that you realize just how well the game of golf lends itself to the big screen; it really is a cinematic sport.
Let me be clear: the list I’ve compiled is my favorite golfing movies that I love. You might not agree with some of these movies on the list while others you will; however, I am confident that although you might disagree with the rankings, you will agree the movies on the list deserve to be there.
1. A Stroke Of Genius: Bobby Jones, 2014
During the mid-2000s, there was a resurgence in golf movies after a long hiatus, and one of the best ones to emerge was Stroke of Genius. The film is a biopic that depicts Bobby Jones and tells the story of how he became the first golfer in history to win all four Majors in the same year.
During the 1930s, no golfer was even coming close to matching the skill level of Bobby Jones, who would later become one of the most important golfers in the game’s history. The film depicts Bobby Jones’s early life. It tracks his career from its relatively modest start when he was observing other prominent golfers like Walter Hagan to his history-making achievements and Major Championship wins.
The film does an excellent job of showing how Bobby’s interest and passion for the game of golf started to wain, and he became increasingly interested in pursuing a career as a lawyer. But Bobby had one goal he wanted to achieve before leaving the game behind; to win all four Major Championships.
I must admit that this movie is probably better suited toward hardcore golf fans because you can catch a glimpse of some early, rarely seen golfing footage showing greats such as Harry Vardon and Walter Hagan. Stroke of Genius was also the first-ever movie that was granted permission to be filmed on the hallowed grounds of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
2. The Legend Of Bagger Vance, 2000
Many film critics believe that the Legend of Bagger Vance hasn’t aged well, but this is one of those times when I disagree entirely. Bagger Vance, although it does perpetuate a certain Hollywood cliche, the film plot and the acting performance by Matt Damon are superb. I must admit, it’s different, though, watching Matt Damon as Bagger Vance and not Jason Bourne.
The movie is based on the 1995 novel “Vance” authored by Steven Pressfield. The film depicts and follows the story of Bagger as he goes from a golfer who had it all to one who lost everything. It details his heartbreak and troubled relationship with the women he loved and his eventual breakdown due to his experiences in World War I.
His lover, played by Charlize Theron, asks Bagger to enter a tournament that she is hosting, and Bagger reluctantly agrees. As the tournament gets underway, a caddy, played by Will Smith, reaches out to Bagger and helps him overcome his past and rekindle his love for the game.
When the movie was initially released, critics were torn between the emotional and heartwarming story and what others saw as lacking a captivating plot. The A-list cast, though, did a fantastic job in portraying their respective characters and their performances are believable.
One of the most famed film critics of all time, Roger Ebert, gave the film a resounding three and a half stars out of a possible four. Ebert commented that the film had a “zen” style approach, and although he’s not a golf fan, the movie illustrated the value of balancing one’s personal goals with the emotions and feelings of friends and family.
3. Tommy’s Honour, 2016
Any film director knows that when they take on the challenge of adapting a novel to a film, they will face many obstacles. However, when that film and book are generally regarded as one of the best in a specific genre, the scrutiny a movie director will face is intensified.
The movie is an adaptation of the 2007 book authored by Kevin Cook, Tommy’s Honour: the Story of Old Tom Morris. The book depicts the life of golf’s most famous father and son and captures the passion they displayed for everything golf. The film gives viewers a glimpse into their lives, relationships, and career and tells the story of just how influential the pair were in Scotland during the 1860s.
Both father and son loved the game of golf; however, the two had very different worldview points off the course, which led to numerous clashes over their personal and professional life. It was well-known that the Morris family frequently clashed, and it was partly due to the generational differences between father and son.
In 2016, the film won Best Feature Film at the BAFTA Scottish Awards and saw Lowden earn a nomination for Best Actor at the British Academy Scotland Awards. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a pretty high score which also helps lend validity to the film.
4. Seve: The Movie; 2014
Seve: The Movie, recounts the illustrious career of Spain’s greatest golfer of all time, Seve Ballesteros. Seve completely dominated the game of golf from the 1970s through to the early 90s and is the only player to have held the number 1 position with such an unorthodox style.
Seve Ballesteros transcended golf with his swashbuckling style. People who had no interest in the game of golf were suddenly fascinated by the sport, with many of them ultimately taking up the game. Seve was a mix of comedy, skill, and showmanship, and many experts believed Seve was an enigma.
Tragically at the young age of 54, Seve lost his three-year battle with cancer, but his legacy lives on through this wonderful film depicting the impact he had on the game of golf. The film shows a ton of great interviews from the early days, detailing Seve’s many golfing achievements. My favorite parts of the film are when the director shows the montage of Seve’s most memorable shots.
Seve: The Movie, received critical success when it was initially released in 2014, with many film critics pointing to its dramatizations of Seve’s early childhood days in growing up in Spain. Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian Newspaper said, “Golf may not provide the same instantaneous exhilaration as motor racing, but this film, as long and leisurely as the game itself, is endearing.”
5. The Caddy, 1953
The Caddy is the earliest movie on this list, and I must say I have a passion for all old movies, not just golfing movies. In fact, if you saw my DVD library, you’d realize that 90% of the films I have are from Hollywood’s golden era.
The Caddy uses golf as the movie’s main plot rather than telling the story of a former professional golfer or industry insider, but this is why the film works so well, in my opinion. The Martin and Lewis comedy contrasts the world of competitive golf and Hollywood show business. Harvey is played by Jerry Lewis, and the character is a lovely-natured golfer with exceptional talent but can’t play due to his fear of performing in front of large crowds.
Heeding the advice of his girlfriend, played by Barbara Bates, Harvey starts to coach the game of golf and, through a coincidental meeting, eventually winds up caddying in professional tournaments. As Harvey’s confidence grows, friction starts to form between player and caddy until finally, Harvey takes to the course himself.
Granted, this is not the best Jerry Lews and Martin movie ever produced but in saying that, the film is a must-see for golfing fans. The movie is also the first time Martin used his famous “that’s amore” in a movie setting. The Caddy is fast-paced, and I think it’s funny, but I do love the older style of humor. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend renting the DVD.
6. Caddyshack; 1980
Where to start with Caddyshack? Even if you’re not a golf fan, chances are you’ve probably seen it, Simply put, of all the golfing movies ever made, Caddyshack has the biggest cult following and is the most well-known in the genre.
As a matter of fact, ESPN actually said that it’s “perhaps the funniest sports movie ever made.” Caddyshack has an all-star cast with actors like Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray. The film was directed by the late great movie director Harold Ramis and showcased some of the most cliched and humorous aspects of playing golf at a wealthy American Country Club.
The Country Club is managed by an arrogant golf director, Judge Smalls, who is played by Ted Knight. Rodney Dangerfield is as funny as ever and plays the role of an affluent party animal who just happens to love golf. He becomes acquaintances with Chevy Chases’s character, a liberal-spirited member of the Country Club and the two meet the funny and interesting greenskeeper played by Bill Murray.
Although, at the time of its release, the film only received minor acclaim, it has since become a cult classic in the golfing genre and across all comedy categories. Even the movie site Bravo included Caddyshack in the top 100 Funniest Movies Of All Time. The film was also featured in the American Films Institute “100 movies; 100 laughs” series and made the list of the top 10 Sports Films ever produced.
James Montgomery, a movie critic from Rolling Stone, has an interesting take on Caddyshack, saying, “you can debate that it’s not the greatest golf movie of all time, but you’d be wrong.”
7. Loopers; The Caddie’s Long Walk, 2019
For many reasons, golf is a unique game, and a big part of the uniqueness is the relationship the players form with their caddies. Unlike sports such as basketball and baseball, where large teams of coaches and support networks are available, the game of golf, and specifically, the pros, depend heavily on their caddies.
The relationship between players and caddy is built on trust and loyalty, and in many cases, the relationships last a lifetime, both on and off the course. The movie is narrated by Hollywood’s biggest golf fan, Bill Murray. Loopers tells the history of golf caddies and traces the steps showing where they came from to where they are now as instrumental components in the game of golf.
The Loopers documentary is targeted toward golf fanatics as opposed to “fans” of the game. This seminal doco portrays the history and challenges that caddies face in an exhilarating and often heartfelt way. All in all, the Loopers has a pretty favorable rating across most film critic sites and magazines. What I love most about the documentary is that it spotlights the lives of caddies whose names you’ve never heard of.
8. Pat and Mike, 1952
This 1953 classic golf movie brought together two of Hollywood’s biggest stars at the time, Spencer Tracy and Katherin Hepburn. Pat and Mike is about a talented golfer who wants to turn pro but is always held back by her affluent yet highly critical fiance, William Chang.
Searching for ways to improve her game and her chances of turning pro, she hires a coach and sports promoter despite her husband’s blatant dislike for her choices and the game. As the movie unfolds, Pat develops romantic feelings for her new coach, and the two go on an outlandish journey where they dodge the mafia and even a few vengeful boxers.
Now some critics might say that Pat and Mike’s is not a real golf movie because the game rarely features in the film, but I entirely beg to differ. The script is super funny and was written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanjin and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
I’m sure golf fans like myself will appreciate just how well Hepburn plays a female golfer, and if you’re a movie fan in general, you might even be able to spot a violent thug played by a very young Charles Bronson.
9. Happy Gilmore, 1996
I love Adam Sandler movies, and I love golf, so it stands to reason that Happy Gilmore is ranked number 2 on my all-time best golf movies. Even if you’re not a golfing fan, the chances are that not only have you probably seen Happy Gilmore, but you probably laughed your bum off too.
Happy Gilmore is a movie that takes a humorous look at the life of a wannabe hockey professional who turns to professional golf to help pay to get his grandmother’s house back. Sandlers’ character is a hot-tempered loud mouth who has no interest in the game of golf but uses his long driving abilities as a way to win PGA Tour events and with it the prizemoney.
The movie has Sandler rise to the top of the game, and, along the way, he forms a rivalry with Shooter McGavin, played by the ever-funny Christopher McDonald. To help him reach the top of the game, Happy is supported by a one-armed golf coach whose arm was bitten off by an alligator after hitting in the water during a tournament in his playing days.
Happy Gillmore is not for everyone, and some people, my wife included, don’t find Sandler’s style of comedy funny; I don’t know how she came to that conclusion. I love the juvenile-style comedy that Sandler is known for, and the fact the movie features golf prominently just makes me love it even more.
10. Tin Cup, 1996
Kevin Costner and Ron Shelton are responsible for one of the best sporting movies of all time, Bull Durham, and the pair teamed up again in 1996 to produce Tin Cup. I will say that Bull Durham is probably one of my favorite sporting movies, if not my favorite.
Kevin Costner’s character, Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, was a former PGA Tour pro who retired from the sport and now manages a rundown practice facility where he gives golf lessons. Roy falls in love with a golfer, played by Renne Russo, who takes lessons from him at the driving range and helps him regain his passion for the game he once loved.
The movie blends golf with romance and is very well written and directed. The famed Roger Ebert said in his critique of the film for the Chicago Sun-Times. “The back-and-forth is smart and fresh, and when Tin Cup and Molly speak to each other they savor the joy of terminology.”
Todd McCarthy from Variety Magazine said, “Tin Cup is “warm and continually humorous rather than being boisterous; this shabby tale of a ne’er-do-well’s fitful attack on personal and professional etiquette benefits significantly from Kevin Costner’s ingratiatingly witty star turn; it’s his most attractive work in years.”