Sport doesn’t always transfer comfortably onto the silver screen. Who can forget Sylvester Stallone’s remarkably unconvincing performance as a lumbering footballer in ‘Escape to Victory’? A lot less hectic than most sports, golf transfers more easily into celluloid.
Choosing the five best golf movies of all time isn’t all that difficult because, frankly, there haven’t been that many. Top of the leaderboard must be the hilarious ‘Caddyshack. Starring Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, it’s an irresistible blend of farce, slapstick and utter nonsense. The ridiculous action centres on Bushwood Country Club and the rivalries within it. It builds to a spectacular grudge-match finale and was a big box officsuccess in 1980. Although looking rather dated today, it is nevertheless indisputably a cult classic.
Occupying the runner-up slot is another great golf movie with an implausible storyline. ‘Happy Gilmore’ established Adam Sandler as a Hollywood star. He’s an angry hockey player who switches to golf in a desperate effort to win enough money to save his grandma’s home. Although blessed with outstanding hand/eye coordination, he is spectacularly unorthodox and about as far from Ben Hogan as you can get. Never mind, he hits the ball a country mile and, believe it or not, ends up competing professionally against a loathsome rival in a frantic finale.
1996 was an exceptional year for golf movies, as both ‘Happy Gilmour’ and ‘Tin Cup’ were released. The latter starred Kevin Costner as a burned-out pro living in a trailer behind a driving range. His never-lay-up attitude to both golf and life upsets a few people, which in turn persuades him to show the world what he can do. The climax comes in the final round of the US Open when he faces a prodigious carry over water to a distant green.
From improbable fiction to extraordinary fact and another golf movie revolving around the US Open. Based on the book of the same name, ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’ evokes the spirit of a bygone hickory-shafted era and beautifully recounts the remarkable attempt by Francis Ouimet to become the first amateur to win the US Open.
In fifth place comes ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Will Smith as the eponymous hero caddy, it sadly was Jack Lemmon;s final film, More appreciated by golfers than it was by the critics, it’s set in 1930s Georgia at the time of the Great Depression.