Top Golf MoviesPublished on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readGolf expert Adam Ditcher shares a list of some of the very best golf movies and explains why golf fans will like them. Enjoy the films!
Photo by Bob Osias
Those of us who love a sport have undoubtedly engaged in watching movies about our favorite sports. Hockey fans have movies like The Mighty Ducks or Miracle. Brian’s Song has been bringing audiences of football fans to tears for decades. As golfers, we too have a list of movies related to our sport, and some are held up as all-time “must watch” content. For the sake of this article, I will not be exploring non-fiction documentaries about golf, but I do highly recommend watching some of the docuseries out there to any golf fan who follows the PGA Tour and finds the players’ golf club skill to be unbelievable. However, realistic fiction is fair game, and many of the movies listed in this article are based on real events.
The first movie is not just about golf, it achieved recognition outside the sport and is still considered a cult classic to this day. This movie, of course, is Caddyshack, which can only be listed at the top of a golf movie discussion. The movie centers around Bushwood Country Club, where the characters either golf or work, and the cast is a compilation of stars. Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Cindy Morgan, and Michael O’Keefe star in a laugh-out-loud funny movie that can be watched with or without other golf enthusiasts. It really stretches beyond the game in a comedic fashion, and the movie is one that you can watch over and over (as I’m sure many golf fans have). For those of you who really want to get into the heavy rough, Chevy Chase does star in Caddyshack II, but I’d highly recommend any of the following golf movies over watching the sequel.
In 2021, we have players on the PGA Tour hitting 350-yard drives and chasing distance off the tee. The chase for distance is on, but the real start of tour driving distance began in the 90s with Happy Gilmore. Adam Sandler stars in the film as a former hockey player who takes up golf in an effort to win enough prize money to save his grandmother’s house from being foreclosed on. Long off the tee, but lacking in short game prowess, Happy Gilmore slowly learns the game of golf. Chris McDonald stars opposite Sandler as the arrogant Shooter McGavin, the number one player on the tour and nemesis of Happy Gilmore. In a film you have to see to believe, Sander and cast capture the intrigue of golf fans everywhere with a roller-coaster plot leading up to a climactic Tour Championship tournament. It’s also impossible to mention the movie without acknowledging the outstanding scenes involving former television game show host Bob Barker.
The Greatest Game Ever Played
While both Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore are outstanding movies and absolutely should be at the top of every golf movie list, they lack the intrigue of being based upon a true story. The next movie on our golf movie marathon list is The Greatest Game Ever Played. Based upon the exceptionally unlikely victory of Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open, Shia Labeouf plays Ouimet as we follow him through his early life and see the unlikely outcomes that lead to him playing in, let alone winning, the 1913 U.S. Open. With a gripping plot and outstanding acting, the movie keeps you engaged even if you are familiar with the story of Ouimet and know the outcome of the movie before watching it. Stephen Dillane and Stephen Marcus star as Ouimet’s opponents Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, and Elias Koteas plays Ouimet’s disheartening father, Arthur. The intrigue of the movie keeps you on your toes through the end. Viewers intrigued by the story can pick up the book of the same title by Mark Frost, research the time period and the early days of professional golf, and read my article about the greatest professional golfers of all time—a group to which Harry Vardon belongs, making Ouimet’s victory all the more impressive.
Although not directly a true story, the next movie is very relatable for many golfers across the world. Kevin Costner stars in Tin Cup, a movie featuring many cameos by professional PGA Tour golfers and PGA Tour commentators alike. Costner stars as Roy McAvoy, a former golf star who owns a driving range and has given up on his dreams to compete at the highest level. The rest of the cast is also outstanding and includes Rene Russo, Don Johnson, and Cheech Marin. Viewers follow McAvoy through the story of his life’s redemption arc and see the struggles he endures as he comes to grips with the demons he’s always had. The viewer is left with conflicting emotions by the end of the film, but you’ll have to check out this all iconic golf flick to know exactly what I mean.
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Another movie worth watching is the golf classic The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, and Jack Lemmon, with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen being played by Joel Gretsch and Bruce McGill, respectively. The story follows the recollections of Hardy Greaves, played by Lemmon, as an elderly man looking back at his lifelong love affair with the game of golf. Greaves idolized Rannulph Junuh (played by Matt Damon) as a youth, a down-and-out golfer who loses his family fortune and attempts to recapture former glory by hosting an exhibition between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, two of the greatest players of the era. After being talked into competing in the exhibition himself, being a formerly respectable golfer, Junuh finds himself lost on the golf course, with his golf game failing him while preparing to compete against the world’s best. He is approached by a mysterious man who calls himself Bagger Vance (played by Will Smith), who offers to be his caddy and help Junuh find his natural golf swing again. Like Tin Cup, Greaves’ story examines the trials and tribulations of Junuh’s life and the eventual overcoming of his demons. The overall story arc and the book that the movie is based on are all-time classics.
Another golf movie worth checking out is Seven Days in Utopia, starring Robert Duvall and Lucas Black. The movie revolves around the life of Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black), a struggling tour player who gets into a car accident in Texas and meets Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall) in the process, who offers Chisholm the opportunity to stay on his ranch for a week and see if he can find whatever it is that he’s been missing in life.
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is another brilliant golf movie based upon the life of a golf legend. Viewers follow Jones (played by Jim Caviezel) through his life as he gains confidence in his game and learns to control emotions on his path to the all-time greatest amateur golf career in history. This movie was also the first to ever be allowed to film on the Royal and Ancient course at St. Andrews.
Tommy’s Honour, another historical fiction golf movie, follows the life and times of the golf pioneers Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris. Played by Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden, the movie explores the historical significance of social class to the game of golf (which is also apparent in The Greatest Game Ever Played), as well as the significance of what both Old and Young Tom Morris were able to accomplish in their golf careers.
Finally, Seve the Movie follows the life and times of Seve Ballesteros (played by José Luis Gutiérrez) as he learns to play golf on the beaches of Spain because he is not able to use the course due to his and his family’s social standing.
All of these movies are worth your while to check out, and honestly, any movie involving golf is something we golf fans can get behind! If you're dreaming of recreating any of these movie scenes yourself, be sure to chat with a Golf expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations, and they will be sure to get you all geared up!