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Some golf films worth teeing up

Golf is a great big deal around here. Shoot, the US Open is played right here in Pinehurst. 


But no, I don’t play golf. And no, I don’t watch it. Since Tiger broke bad, it just doesn’t interest me. 


However, there are at least 50 movies about golf. Or in which golf figures in a major way. About 40 of them aren’t much good. And most of the good ones are comedies. Go figure. Anyway, here are my picks as the best golf movies.


At the top of my list is the enchanting, hilarious The Phantom of the Open (2021). Mark Rylance has a ball portraying Maurice Flitcraft, an absolutely clueless crane operator. He finds an entry blank for the British Open and fills it out. It asks the level of your golf game and he lists “professional.” He gets admitted and fires a blazing 121. He has never actually played a round before! Sally Hawkins is good as his equally clueless wife. The powers that be in golfdom are horrified. The British public is in love with this zany guy. It is, as the say, based on a true story.

Perhaps the most famous golf movie is Caddyshack (1980), a riotous comedy. Chevy Chase plays Ty Webb, son of the golf course owner. Rodney Dangerfield is Al Czervik, nouveau riche developer and owner of the adjoining property. Bill Murray is Carl Spackler, dim-witted greens keeper. And unknown (still) Michael O’Keefe is Danny Noonan, a caddy trying to earn enough money to go to college. And — the funniest gopher in the movies. There is an expensive tournament between the two sides, with a reluctant Danny being roped in to play. His final putt, which will win the bet, hangs on the lip of the hole. Spackler sets off a dynamite charge in an effort to get rid of the gopher. It might shake enough to make the putt drop.


If you’re an Adam Sandler fan (really, you are?), you might like Happy Gilmore (1996). Strangely enough, many people did. He portrays a failed hockey player whose slap shot translates into miraculously long drives. There is, of course, a tournament which he must win to save his grandmother’s house. Hey, I didn’t write the screenplay.


Tin Cup (1996) is a better comedy. Kevin Costner is very good as erratic golfer Roy MacAvoy, who tends to spoil his best rounds by showing off too much. His romantic attachment to Molly Griswold (Rene Russo) is the heart of this film. Don Johnson plays Roy’s golfing rival David Simms and Cheech Martin has an excellent spot as Roy’s best buddy Romeo Posar. There is the inevitable golf tournament which Roy needs to win to make the PGA tour, and not incidentally, Molly’s love.


The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) is the only film in this column that isn’t a comedy. It is a biopic about how a gifted amateur, Francis Ouimet, won the US Open in 1913. Ably played by the underrated Shia LaBeouf, it is pretty close to historical accuracy. Francis was a former caddy from a poor family at a time when only rich guys could play golf. The final round of the tournament provides the title match.


All of these films are OK for all ages.