The 14 Best Golf Movies, Ranked

What is it about the game of golf that makes good cinema? We can barely keep our eyes open during the PGA Tour. Its tranquil vibes are more relaxing than a glass of warm milk. And we can't name but a handful of players: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, er... Is there a famous "Dave" in there? Still, we could pop in and enjoy at least a dozen films about the sport at a moment's notice on a lazy Saturday afternoon. There's something majestic about the luscious greens, the stillness of the crowd, the whispered play-by-play, and the distant thwack of a ball that translates to the big screen.

Or maybe it's the class struggle, as golf is seen as a gentleman's sport designed for the wealthy. A round of golf at Pebble Beach will set you back nearly $600! Or perhaps we're intoxicated by the psychology of the game, which requires utmost concentration and inner peace to perform at a high level.

Whatever the case, moviegoers love a good golf drama. We've ranked 14 of our favorites in case you're in the mood for a round or two. So kick back, grab some lemonade, and take a gander at the following list, ranked from worst to best. Let's grip it and rip it, people!

14. A Gentleman's Game (2002)

A curious little film about life, the ironically titled "A Gentleman's Game" has all the characteristics of a Hallmark Channel original, right down to the cheesy DVD cover art. Nevertheless, as directed by J. Mills Goodloe, this R-rated sports drama is more mature than your typical family fare, replete with salty language and a darker view of life as seen through the eyes of young Timmy Price (Mason Gamble).

Timmy is a golf prodigy, but his platitude-spouting father (Dylan Baker) — "You can't win them all, we gave it a shot, all that matters is we tried," he says at one point — forces him to work as a caddie. Consequently, the young man learns harsh lessons about the game he loves and the people who play it. Slowly, he realizes the world is not as cut and dried as he believed after a series of events bring him face-to-face with a former pro-turned-failure (Gary Sinise), a racist country club snob (Philip Baker Hall), and a thumbless caddie with a dark secret.

It's all a bit heavy-handed, and the results aren't nearly as polished as one would expect. Still, some interesting ideas make "A Gentleman's Game" something of a double bogey — not bad, but far from a winning formula.

13. The Caddy (1953)

Arriving during Martin and Lewis' heyday, "The Caddy" is a fun slice of entertainment with enough wacky humor and bouncy tunes ("That's Amore!") to hold one's attention for 90 minutes. Jerry Lewis shows off his comedic talents and supplies the sort of hijinks you expect as Harvey, a talented but skittish golfer who acts like a 12-year-old and throws tantrums on the putting green.

The plot follows Harvey's attempts to repurpose himself as a coach/caddy for his golf-challenged buddy Joe (Dean Martin, suave as usual), leading to a series of antics that somehow lands them a gig as popular entertainers. Yeah, it's all nonsense, but Martin and Lewis display delightful chemistry, the songs are fun, and a supporting cast consisting of Donna Reed, Barbara Bates, and Joseph Calleia, along with a handful of cameos from famous golfers like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Byron Nelson, ensures viewers get their money's worth.

12. Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004)

The story of golfer Bobby Jones would make a great film in the right hands. Unfortunately, as directed by Rowdy Herrington, "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius" only offers a cursory view of his exploits and feels more like a highlight reel than an examination of the man behind the myth.

Still, as golf films go, it's lovely to look at, well acted by its cast of veterans (namely Jim Caviezel, Claire Forlani, Malcolm McDowell, and Aiden Quinn), and contains a magical score by the late, great James Horner. The various golf tournaments are executed well and reveal Jones' complete understanding of the game throughout different stages of his career, and the conclusion is appropriately inspiring.

Jones may be too good for a biopic, as his incredible success lacks a dramatic pull. The title cards at the end of the film reveal the most interesting tidbits about his person: He served as a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. He was later "diagnosed with syringomyelia, a crippling and painful disease of the spinal cord" that left him unable to walk for the rest of his life. Bobby Jones went through plenty of trial and tribulation, just not on the fairway.

11. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

"The Legend of Bagger Vance" finds director Robert Redford attempting to apply the magical properties of "The Natural" to the game of golf, with mixed results. Starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Charlize Theron, the film, based on Steven Pressfield's novel of the same name and written by Jeremy Leven, has its heart in the right place but leans on tired sports tropes and hackneyed melodrama.

That said, Rannulph Junuh's (Damon) story is interesting. Here is a man who must rediscover himself after his experiences in World War I left him psychologically broken. Luckily, a mysterious caddie named Bagger Vance (Smith) arrives and helps Junuh face his demons on the back nine of an exhibition match hosted by Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron). The film implies that golf and life are the same, and one need only look past the obstacles facing them to hit the green and achieve true happiness.

Aided indelibly by Rachel Portman's whimsical score and Michael Ballhaus' lush photography, it's a tried and true narrative that will appeal to audiences, provided they gloss over the numerous clichés and sappiness pervading the production.

10. From the Rough (2011)

Taraji P. Henson stars in "From the Rough," a formulaic but inspirational true-life sports drama about a swimming coach who leaves the water to serve as head coach for Tennessee State University's men's golf team. Catana Starks (Henson) gets the gig, albeit with stipulations, forcing her to recruit international players to round out the group. So we get a ragtag squad of underachievers, played by Tom Felton, Justin Chon, Paul Hodge, and Ben Youcef, who have no idea how to play together and struggle to impress the athletic director (Kendrick Paulsen, Jr.).

Will this crew of misfits put aside their differences and win the big tournament? Will the school abandon its disdain for Catana and learn to accept her unique approach to the game? Will Catana's boss stop acting like a jerk long enough to let her do her job?

"From the Rough" wears its heart on its sleeve and is about as predictable as a four-foot putt, but no one goes into this type of film expecting originality. Let's just call this one par for the course.

9. Follow the Sun (1951)

While a tad episodic, "Follow the Sun" nevertheless does a bang-up job telling the inspiring true-life tale of golf legend Ben Hogan (a terrific Glenn Ford), who rose to fame on the green before a car accident sidelined him for a time. Through sheer determination and the support of his wife, Valerie (Anne Baxter), Hogan manages to find his way back to the sport he loves, albeit with a greater appreciation for his friends and family.

"Follow the Sun" checks all the right boxes and works as an uplifting tale about one of golf's greatest champions. Our main beef with the pic (and the reason we have it ranked so low) is that Hogan's accomplishments are condensed into a brief 90-minute runtime, leaving the biography feeling strangely condensed. Hogan's rehabilitation occupies less than 10 minutes of screen time. It plays more like a minor hiccup than a genuine problem he overcame. Undoubtedly, someone will make a better version of Hogan's remarkable life story at some point. For now, we'll just have to "Follow the Sun."

8. Tommy's Honour (2016)

Films about golf often focus on the social divides that prevent poorer talents from participating in a game typically reserved for the upper class. "Tommy's Honour" follows suit but positions its themes around a contentious father/son relationship. In this case, Tom (Peter Mullan) and Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden) are avid golfers but view the game much differently. Tom believes in the class structure and quietly does his job as a caddie and greenskeeper of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, headed by the snotty Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill). Meanwhile, Tommy yearns to open the game up for everyone, regardless of social status, and draws the ire of more affluent folk who would rather jump off a Scottish cliff than see their precious game ravaged by the lower class.

Beautifully shot and well-acted, "Tommy's Honour" (directed by Sean Connery's son, Jason, no less) plays more like a golf history lesson than an out-and-out drama. Still, it should satisfy those seeking to learn more about the sport and the people who paved the way for its modern-day success. Now, if we could get a movie about the invention of miniature golf...

7. Dead Solid Perfect (1988)

"Dead Solid Perfect" would be considered a classic if "Tin Cup" didn't swoop in and do a better version of its story less than a decade later. It's the tale of professional (but not quite extraordinary) golfer Kenny Lee (Randy Quaid) — "The only bastard on the tour who can't make a putt!" — and his exploits on the PGA Tour, where he encounters all manner of obstacles, including self-doubt, relationship issues, and gambling problems, in his pursuit of eternal glory.

Based on the phenomenal (and far superior) book by Dan Jenkins (who also wrote the script), "Dead Solid Perfect" works best when it focuses on Lee's relationships with ornery, foul-mouthed sponsor Hubert "Bad Hair" Wimberly (an excellent Jack Warden) and wise old caddie Spec Reynolds (Larry Riley), who each do their part to aid in his quest for greatness.

Flawed and less outrageous than its source, though very much an R-rated sports flick for adults, "Dead Solid Perfect" presents an amusing, albeit coarse, look at the world of professional golf.

6. Pat and Mike (1952)

Fans of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn are sure to get a kick out of "Pat and Mike," a charming, wonderfully written comedy about a golfer named Pat (Hepburn), struggling to reconcile athletic fame with her problematic personal life. Pat is engaged to Collier Weld (William Ching), a dimwit hellbent on bending her to his will. Luckily, Mike (Tracy) steps in as her manager, and together, the pair shed the baggage in their lives and come out on top.

"I don't know if you can lick me or I can lick you, but together, we can lick the world," Mike says to Pat. Indeed, here is a film about two people with opposing viewpoints on life whose relationship (and eventual courtship) allows them to become better versions of themselves. Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin's sharp script gives plenty for our iconic leads to chew on ("Not much meat on her, but what's there is 'cherce'"), and director George Cukor displays the same comedic panache he demonstrated with "Adam's Rib" and "The Philadelphia Story."

"Pat and Mike" may not be a golf classic, but it's a fun, safe little film that zips right down the fairway. 

5. Happy Gilmore (1996)

This is a hard one to rank. On the one hand, "Happy Gilmore" is a classic Adam Sandler comedy in which humor comes at the expense of the golfing community, exemplified here by iconic villain Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald). Director Dennis Dugan and writers Tim Herlihy and Sandler produce plenty of memorable moments and enough crass jokes to fill a sandtrap. Who can forget Happy's bout with Bob Barker? Or his profanity-filled outbursts on national TV? Or his ludicrous swing that owes more to Wayne Gretzky than Arnold Palmer? It's all hilarious, right down to the nonsensical ending.

On the other hand, "Happy Gilmore" isn't a golf movie, per se, but rather an Adam Sandler vehicle that happens to take place on a golf course. As such, we can't rightfully place this one over more golf-centric pictures, but we also can't bring ourselves to list it outside the top five. Savvy?

At any rate, "Happy Gilmore" is a blast from start to finish, a film that takes the general public's perception of golf, wraps it around a typical rags-to-riches tale, and drizzles it with Sandler's goofy sense of humor. Rest in peace, Chubbs.

4. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

In a perfect world, audiences would have flocked to "The Greatest Game Ever Played" in 2005 and turned it into a monster-sized hit. Sadly, this mighty effort from director Bill Paxton earned mediocre reviews, bombed hard at the box office, and practically vanished from public consciousness. Too bad, because "The Greatest Game Ever Played" is a remarkable sports drama with impeccable performances, strong direction, and an ending that will leave all but the most cynical wiping tears from their eyes.

Shia LaBeouf stars in the true story as Francis Ouimet, a talented golfer hailing from the working class. His social status affords him few opportunities in the world of golf, a game played by the wealthy elite, but he eventually ends up challenging Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) and Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus) in the 1913 U.S. Open, which many consider the greatest golf game of all time.

Paxton and screenwriter Mark Frost (adapting his novel) do a stellar job developing the numerous characters and their circumstances. We see Francis' dealings with his world-weary father (an excellent Elias Koteas) and his pint-sized caddie (a scene-stealing Josh Flitter), as well as his run-ins with elitists like Lord Northcliffe (Peter Firth). Even the legendary Harry Vardon is presented more as a victim of circumstance than an outright antagonist. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" checks all the right boxes and deserves mention alongside some of the all-time classics in the genre. Yeah, it's a hole-in-one.

3. Phantom of the Open (2021)

"The Phantom of the Open" is one of those delightful little movies that warms the heart in a big way. Starring Mark Rylance and directed by Craig Roberts, this true story follows Maurice Flitcroft, a crane operator who took a shot at the 1976 British Open, despite never playing a round of golf in his life and went on to fame and ... well, just fame. 

You see, Flitcroft sucks at golf. On his first tee, he closes his eyes, whacks the ball, and is surprised to see it travel just four feet. A stunned crowd comprised of reporters and spectators gasps. Calmly, he steps to the ball and takes another swing, hitting it to the left of the fairway. "That'll do," Flitcroft beams. Yeah, he's that type of guy.

Naturally, Flitcroft's antics ruffle the feathers of his elite fellow golfers and provoke the media, who quickly dub him the world's worst golfer, but he doesn't care. He's doing what he loves. Flitcroft eventually gains notoriety as a gatecrasher and forces the R&A to change its rules to prevent him from entering again. Undeterred, he adopts aliases and ludicrous disguises to hide his identity. After all, it's just a game.

"The Phantom of the Open" is a quirky and heartfelt film about a man who disregards the naysayers in pursuit of an uncatchable dream. He never wins the Open, but he never gives up, either. We get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

2. Tin Cup (1996)

Breezy, light-as-a-feather, and downright hilarious, "Tin Cup" pairs Kevin Costner with "Bull Durham" director Ron Shelton with equally fabulous results. Costner plays Roy "TIn Cup" McAvoy, a down-on-his-luck golfer whose ego prohibits him from reaching greater heights. Into his midst steps the lovely Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo), who instantly catches Roy's attention and lures him back onto the green to compete for her affection. The problem is that she's seeing slimeball golf pro David Simms (Don Johnson), a man with more money than heart. Will Roy beat the odds, win the U.S. Open, and get the girl? Not exactly, and you'll be surprised at the various directions "Tin Cup" traverses en route to its winning finale.

Costner is in top form, playing a manchild too caught up in his own legend to see the flag through the trees, while Russo lets loose as a psychiatrist who must learn to step back and go with the flow. Also on hand is scene-stealer Cheech Marin as Roy's far too loyal right-hand man, Romeo Posar. His bits with Costner are worth the price of admission alone.

Still, this is Shelton's show, and the famed writer-director uncorks a torrent of memorable dialogue ("Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy, even if you're not good at them") that does for golf what Shakespeare did for romance. "Tin Cup" is a brilliant piece of mid-'90s fun that goes down like a cold margarita on a hot summer day.

1. Caddyshack (1980)

Was there ever any doubt? "Caddyshack" is the "Godfather" of golf films, a perfect evaluation of the sport, social divide and all. However, where movies like "The Greatest Game Ever Played" lean on dramatic tropes, "Caddyshack" goes straight for the funny bone and hits a hole-in-one.

Directed by Harold Ramis, this snobs versus slobs comedy boasts an all-star cast consisting of in-their-prime Chevy Chase, Billy Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and the great Ted Knight, a handful of iconic lines ("How 'bout a Fresca?"), and so many memorable moments (Baby Ruth, the Bishop, any scene with Carl) that it would be a crime not to list it as the best golf film of all time.

From a critical standpoint, "Caddyshack" lacks focus and ultimately proves less than the sum of its parts. The caddies take a backseat to the A-list comedians, meaning we only learn a little about them, their lives, and their wacky hijinks. Let's be honest. No one watches "Caddyshack" to determine if Danny earns enough money to attend college. Ramis' film is all about the clever one-liners, the hilarious performances, and witnessing a handful of our most cherished comedic actors come together to partake in a round of golf. To that end, "Caddyshack" is an absolute classic.