. . . with six movie comedies set on the links

While golf has been described as “a good walk spoiled,” numerous filmmakers have found comedic gold out on the course. As a companion piece to our feature on golf, here are some movies that evoke laughter from even serious students of the game.

The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Matt Damon plays a disillusioned war veteran and golfer who rediscovers his “authentic swing” through the intercessions of a mysterious caddy (Will Smith). The film, directed by Robert Redford, is beautifully photographed in its re-creation of 1930s Georgia, but it suffers from a familiar and uncomfortable trope where a white protagonist finds salvation from a mystical African American character, a device that Spike Lee has labeled a “magical negro.”

Happy Gilmore (1996)
Adam Sandler is an acquired taste, but his self-referential shtick works (mostly) in this loopy story of a hockey player attempting to win enough money from pro golf to save his grandmother’s house. With his unconventional success, Happy becomes a rival of a snobbish golfer (Christopher McDonald) and engages in a little class warfare on the fairway. The best bit: a running gag with an unexpectedly virile (and punchy) Bob Barker.

Tin Cup (1996)
Director Ron Shelton and actor Kevin Costner followed their baseball classic, Bull Durham, with a less likely and compelling take on golf. Costner plays a washed-up golf pro who makes a dubious attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, hoping to win the heart of his rival’s girlfriend (Rene Russo). The uneven movie displays some of Costner’s hangdog charm and Shelton’s deft screenwriting, but it mostly demonstrates that movie lightning rarely strikes twice.

Caddyshack (1980)
The late Harold Ramis directed an all-star cast (Chevy Chase, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield and the fantastic Bill Murray) who created a movie that transcends its slapdash rhythms and hammy performances to become a comic classic. It must be acknowledged, however, that the film is really more noteworthy for its singular moments (and a feisty animatronic gopher) than its overall coherence.

Pat and Mike (1952) and Bringing Up Baby (1938)
A classic Katharine Hepburn double feature. Pat and Mike features Hepburn as an accomplished golfer who hires a shady promoter (Spencer Tracy) to be her manager. Both comedy and romantic sparks ensue. Bringing Up Baby pairs Hepburn with a straitlaced Cary Grant in one of the great screwball comedies, the hijinks of which start when the two “meet cute” on the golf course.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.