The Judge is waiting for a better golf movie.

As a rule I don’t watch Inaugurations even though I’ve lived in the DC area for a while.  Usually I’m working, and in 2001 (Inauguration fell on a Saturday that year) I was on a flight to the west coast when George W. Bush was sworn in (I was trying to avoid bad weather).  It’s nothing political, it’s just not my bag.  I’ll probably watch some of the Inaugural address when I have the time to pay attention.

So on this Inauguration Day, since the departing and newly-sworn in POTUS both play (one a lot more than the other), I thought I’d do a deep dive of the worst golf movies.  Everyone has their top-5 or top-10.  This is a top-7 list.  Some of them you’ll recall instantly, and others you’ll have forgotten (or tried to forget) they existed.

Before I jump into the list, I thought it would be helpful if I provided my methodology in how I reviewed these films.

  • Story.  Does the plot make sense?  Does the script follow a progression?
  • Acting.  How good are the actors?
  • Golf.  Do the golf scenes look realistic?  Do the actors/actresses who are playing golf appear to know what they’re doing (if they’re playing characters who are pros/elite amateurs)?  Much like hockey films, this is an area that gets overlooked (I’m looking at you, Mighty Ducks trilogy).  The better option is to do what the producers did for the hockey film “Miracle” which is find guys who can play hockey and teach them acting (the hockey scenes are VERY good).
  • Directing.  How are the golf scenes shot?  Are there obvious continuity errors?  Do the scenes ‘look’ genuine?
  • Re-watch factor.  The best golf films can be re-watched.  Would you want to re-watch?

Again, this list is not in any particular order.  I took notes, watched films, and that’s it.  These films are all uniquely bad for reasons I’ll get into.

  1. Caddyshack II (released 1988).  This falls into how I feel about the sequels to Slap Shot (hockey people feel about Slap Shot what golfers feel about Caddyshack; notably the sequel(s) were terrible ideas).  They’re terrible, poorly conceived, horribly written and to borrow a phrase, the audience is the worse for having watched it.  Much of the original cast is gone and replaced with people who should know better.  Robert Stack as the Judge Smails and Jackie Mason as the Al Czervik is all you need to know.  Beyond terrible and not even in a “so bad it’s good” way.  Insipid.  Awful.  The best thing I can say about these films is that Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Ted Knight had the decency to run away from this flaming turd of a film.  The people who made this film should apologize to anyone who’s had to sit through it.
  2. Happy Gilmore (released 1996).  I know there are people who like this film as it’s an Adam Sandler film and he has his fans.  This ain’t it, chief.  Sandler has “one” character he plays with very few exceptions (the odd drama film).  He’s playing Adam Sandler Comedic Goof.  The golf plotline is terrible and completely divorced from reality.  The continuity errors are in the dozens (obviously shot at multiple locations at different times of the year and changing for no reason).  Christopher McDonald’s ‘Shooter McGavin’ character is the only thing decent.  Again- touring pros AND a then-nascent Golf Channel bought onto this.  A poster child for failing to get the details right.
  3. Greatest Game Ever Played (released 2005).  A good book does not always make for a good movie.  The problems start with Shia Lebeouf, who is awful as the film’s lead Francis Ouimet.  His golf swing is god-awful.  It’s worse than Matt Damon’s in ‘Bagger Vance’ which is saying something.  At no point do you think he’s playing that role.  He’s just Shia Lebeouf looking like a 30-handicap chopper in period dress.  I wanted to like this film (seriously- the book is good).  It’s awful.  Shia should apologize to Stephen Dillane who is actually good.  The film makes several factual errors that go against what actually happened.
  4. The Tiger Woods Story (released 1998).  The Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie enema of golf films.  Undoubtedly some smooth-brained troglodyte wearing white shoes and a nose ring thought to greenlight this dumpster fire after his Masters win.  The lead (whose name bears not repeating) didn’t really look like Woods, and the golf scenes are awful.  It’s consistently awful.   No thought was put into this film.  It jumps around without ever actually making a point.  I had forgotten it existed until I started researching this.  I feel gross.  The script (assuming there was one) has all the emotion of a manila envelope.
  5. Who’s Your Caddy (released 2007).  If you don’t understand golf, don’t do golf films.  Not authentic.  More of a comedic vehicle.  It’s as if they thought “we have this dumpster fire of a script with comedic actors, let’s spin the wheel and find out some details….and hey let’s have them be caddies!” or something.   At some point someone is going to make a great film about caddies (Tin Cup does the role ‘some’ justice).  This…is not that film.  It’s not to say that every golf scene has to involve professionals, but if the actors are playing pros/elite amateurs they should look the part.  A good example of not good players in a great scene?  The golf scene in ‘Sideways’.  Two guys who aren’t any good but who make bad swings and look the part.  Anyone who’s played a lot of public golf can relate to Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church being in front of them and the reactions from everyone.
  6. A Gentleman’s Game (released 2002).  A 90-minute slog about adolescence and being honest.  Less a golf movie and more of an After-School Special (kids, ask your parents) with Gary Sinise.  Instead of “Timmy discovers marijuana!?!” it’s “Timmy sees the mean old man cheating and being a racist.”  Which is bad.  So don’t cheat.  Don’t be racist.  Be honest.  Don’t cheat.  Eat your vegetables and bathe daily.  Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
  7. The Squeeze (released 2015).  Directed by former ABC golf producer Terry Jastrow who is well connected in Hollywood and golf circles.  Anne Archer was part of the production.  Christopher McDonald and Jeremy Sumpter are in it.  And yet,  it’s not any good.  A good third of the film has zero relevancy to the plot (none of it remaining part of answering the basic “What’s the Story?” question).  The plot gets in its own way.  The golf scenes in the main match are well done, but the rest of the film jumps around.  When I heard about it I really thought it would be better.  It’s not.  Luckily it’s confined to Golf Channel.

So that’s it.  Seven golf films not worth your time.  Hopefully ‘someone’ can write a script for a golf movie that gets the golf parts correct and can couple that with a good story.  Movies, at their best, tell great stories.  Let’s hope so.