There’s nothing like a good sports movie. Whether based on a true story, like Miracle, or a work of fantastical fiction like Field of Dreams, sports provide a perfect setting for dramatic, funny and moving stories to occur. While golf as a sport is overall underrepresented at the movie theater, there are still many great golf movies set at some pretty incredible golf courses.
5: The Legend of Bagger Vance
Starring Will Smith as the supernaturally gifted caddy Bagger Vance and Matt Damon as troubled golfer Bobby Junuh, The Legend of Bagger Vance has made its way into the canon of must-see movies for golfers. What’s lesser known about the film is that the book it’s based on is actually a retelling of the famous religious text the Bhagavad Gita via an extended golf metaphor.
Huh? That’s what I thought at first, but it’s true: “Bagger Vance” is code for “Bhagavan”, the main character of the Gita. It’s a version of the seminal Hindu text where the hero (Junuh) refuses to fight but the caddy, Bagger Vance, comes into his life and coaxes him forth to his destiny.
It’s filmed on location at two beautiful Pete Dye courses, the Colleton River Plantation and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, both in South Carolina. The Ocean Course is well known for hosting “The War on the Shore”, the 1991 Ryder Cup where the United States reclaimed the cup by winning the 18th hole of the final match.
It’s a long, difficult, gorgeous seaside course that’s also hosted several major championships, most recently Rory McIlroy’s commanding 2012 PGA Championship victory. Featuring long, narrow deceptive fairways and dangerous native grass area over rolling sand dunes, The Ocean Course deserves its reputation as one of the finest public courses in the country.
4: Happy Gilmore
While Adam Sandler’s movies aren’t generally known for their highbrow wit and intelligent writing, there’s no denying that they can deliver laughter to the point of breathlessness with rare frequency. What you may not know is that Sandler heavily influences the locations of his movies, often picking certain projects because they’ll be shot on location in a beautiful setting.
For Happy Gilmore, the endlessly quotable 1996 movie about a failed hockey player turned superstar everyman professional golfer, the whole movie was shot in the rolling countryside of British Columbia. The golf scenes were filmed in Pitt Meadows at the golf courses at the Swaneset Bay Resort and Country Club. Both of the 18-hole courses at the resort were designed by Lee Trevino, which explains his memorable and amusing cameo in the film!
The wide fairways and spacious greens of the course turned out to be perfect settings for the triumphant and hilarious film.
3: The Greatest Game Ever Played
This movie featuring a young Shia Labeouf is based on the incredible true story of local boy Francis Ouimet’s stunning upset victory in the 1913 US Open at The Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. While Ouimet’s victory was actually a commanding one, the movie dramatizes it with a playoff and an exciting winning putt on the last hole. Oh well, they’re called “Hollywood Endings” for a reason, right?
While the film wasn’t shot at The Country Club, the filmmakers were able to secure an underrated gem of a golf course: Kanawaki Golf Club in Montreal, Canada. Since Canada has great film subsidies and there wasn’t a ton of funding for a golf movie, The Country Club wasn’t an option. But the movie gives a great glimpse at one of the best and most private courses in Canada.
This is definitively the most famous, most quoted golf movie of all time. Hardly a day goes by at the golf course without hearing several of the bon mots delivered throughout the film. Every time rain begins at a golf course, someone’s bound to say “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s coming down for quite a while.”
Director Harold Ramis essentially assembled a cast of great improvisers, including Bill Murray whom Ramis had met at legendary improv theatre The Second City, and a truly phenomenal golf movie occurred while everyone had a blast on set.
The Bushwood Country Club scenes were filmed at what is now Grande Oaks Golf Club in Davie, Florida. It’s a private club with majestic trees lining the manicured fairways, and a popular wedding destination. Who wouldn’t want to get married at the site of Caddyshack?
1: Tin Cup
Now I know Caddyshack is probably everyone else’s #1 golf movie, but I’d argue that Tin Cup is more relatable. Kevin Costner’s movie, set in North Carolina and telling the story of a journeyman pro golfer with a shot at winning the US Open, was actually filmed largely in Texas at Kingwood Country Club just outside of Houston.
The dramatic climax of the movie occurs on the par 5 18th hole, which many people are surprised to find out is actually the long, tough par 4 fourth hole at Kingwood. With a tight driving area and a demanding second shot that requires the golfer to avoid trees while also flying a long iron over water, it may be the most famous hole in golf movie history.
This is a guest post written by Jordan Fuller, editor-in-chief at Golf Inlfuence