If you haven’t heard, this week marked the 20th anniversary since the release of the film Happy Gilmore, and lo and behold but the golf press have gone full slobber mode over it.  Both the PGA and European Tours have had players try to mimic the Happy Gilmore swing and a couple less fortunate souls have tried to mimic the “go in your home” line where he’s yelling at the ball.  Even the UK’s Golf Monthly magazine, which normally isn’t prone to hyperbole, proclaimed it the best golf movie of all time.  With that kind of publicity, I’m surprised that it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture (sorry, Braveheart) with all this talk.

Sweatpants and a hockey sweater, and getting beat up by and old man.  Hilarious!

Sweatpants and a hockey sweater, and getting beat up by and old man. Hilarious!

It’s not even the best golf movie of the decade.  Tin Cup, even when butchered senseless for basic cable, is a far better film (better writing, better script, better acting, and the golf scenes actually look realistic).

This comes from someone who loves hockey and has found most hockey movies to be various piles of hot garbage (if you’re asking, the Jay Baruchel film “Goon” is more than worth your time- the plot is a bit thin, but the hockey scenes are incredibly well done and the scenery shots are outstanding).  The Mighty Ducks trio of films are uniformly bad with terrible hockey scenes.  To remake Slap Shot is a crime against Humanity. Unfortunately, far too many sports films are written by people that really don’t understand sports, and Happy Gilmore fits that bill perfectly.

I’ll admit, Happy Gilmore has some funny moments and a couple decent cameos from PGA Tour professionals (Lee Trevino being the most well-known) and announcers (Verne Lundquist of CBS the notable name) along with a plug or two for the then-burgeoning Golf Channel cable station.

Having said that, the golf scenes are bad.  Terrible.  Watching Charles Barkley’s swing bad.  Shall we count a few of the ways?

  1. There is no single open-to-all tournament (the Waterbury Open) that a novice golfer could show up, win, and somehow make the PGA Tour.  Do you have any idea how many people honestly think that this is how it works?  You want to feed these mouth-breathers a copy of John Feinstein’s “A Good Walk Spoiled” or “Tales From Q School” and hope that some of the words get absorbed.  If you had him attempt to Monday qualify for a tournament and then win said tournament (where he would gain actual status) then it might be credible.
  2. Seriously, even in the early/mid 1990’s they had the Nike Tour.  The number of golfers who won out of the blue?  Other than Woods or Mickelson (who won a tournament as an amateur), there’s nobody.
  3. For someone who was allegedly a hockey player, Sandler skated as well as my dog.
  4. The golf scenes are terrible.  The end scene where the crane falls onto the green?  Did the people that wrote this ever actually see a golf tournament?  The scenes themselves…it’s like they couldn’t decide what course they were going to use so they just said “screw continuity”.
  5. Sure…tournaments pay out for all entrants and don’t have cuts.  Except all the ones that send over half the field home on Friday night without a dime to show for it (almost all of them).
  6. This film seems to time perfectly with the golf douche-bag types yelling random crap when someone hits a shot, so thanks for creating that monster and it’s inbred, hayseed, double-digit IQ cousins.

Tin Cup, while not perfect, at least has a more plausible plot (journeyman attempts to qualify for the US Open, qualifies, and plays in the tournament- if you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil anything else), better cameos (Craig Stadler, Phil Mickelson and Peter Jacobsen among players, and Jim Nantz and the late Ken Venturi in the booth along with Gary McCord on the course and the late Frank Chirkanian in the studio).

Lest you think I’m some geezer who doesn’t like the kids and their loud music, I’m not that way at all.  I love the Waste Management Open’s 16th hole.  Great stuff.

Even the regrettable The Legend of Bagger Vance, whose golf scenes aren’t that great and has some serious continuity issues of its own (the last hole starts with plenty of light when they tee off, and somehow is pitch black dark by the time they get to the fairway- an 8some of Kevin Na types would be faster) gets it right better than Happy Gilmore.  Matt Damon’s golf swing has been criticized (and rightly so) but it’s borderline passable.

I thought Caddyshack was hilarious, but then again you’re talking about Bill Murray who is one of the funniest people walking this planet.  It holds up fairly well…although for my money Ted Knight as Judge Smails was the perfect foil for Murray.  I understand that there’s a sequel, but I refuse to acknowledge its existence.  Knight and Murray weren’t in it, and Rodney Dangerfield can only do so much.

The gold standard for what a golf movie can be remains Dead Solid Perfect.  Excerpted from Dan Jenkins’ novel (a worthwhile read), it gets so much right despite a decidedly mediocre cast (Randy Quaid as the lead); a golf film with drinking, nudity, and it takes you inside the head of a golfer far better than other films.  Unfortunately it was a made-for-TV film on HBO so it doesn’t get near the airing that it deserves.

As much as I hate these kind of lists, but seeing this unneeded and inappropriate Happy Gilmore love-fest of late, I had to put together my list of golf movies.  As the Brits would say, scores on the doors:

  1. Dead Solid Perfect
  2. Caddyshack
  3. Follow The Sun (Ben Hogan Biopic)
  4. Tin Cup
  5. The Greatest Game Ever Played (read the book first)
  6. Seven Days in Utopia (golf scenes are underrated)
  7. A Gentleman’s Game
  8. The Legend of Bagger Vance
  9. Drinking a can of Drano
  10. Tie between Caddyshack II and Happy Gilmore

Enjoy your golf and think Spring!