Ranking the 5 best golf movies

Happy Gilmore
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Few golf movie scenes are better than the Bob Barker fight scene in "Happy Gilmore."
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 | 11:06 a.m.

Whenever there's a list ranking the "best of" anything, there's going to be a heated debate over either the order or the omissions.

We know that. That's what makes it fun, right?

RELATED: Best golf movie characters | Best golf movie quotes | 'Tin Cup' story

Don't worry -- I know you're not going to agree with the order. But if you're going to argue with No. 1, then we're probably going to have to meet for a fight.

So, in descending order, here are the five best golf movies of all time.

5. The Legend of Bagger Vance
Release date:
November 3, 2000
Starring: Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron
What made it great: For those who are really into golf, it explains the importance of having a great caddie. They're not just luggage toters -- they're a swing coach, a mental coach, a voice of reason and a friend. Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) was a promising golfer from Savannah, Ga., is traumatized after serving the country in World War I and losing most of his company in battle. After returning home, he doesn't care much for the game anymore, but gets talked into playing an exhibition -- as the local participant -- with Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen. In comes Bagger Vance (Will Smith), a man with the wisdom required to help Junuh with his personal demons and his swing. In the end, the match ends in a three-way tie when Junuh calls a penalty on himself (hello, Bobby Jones) on the final hole. Overall, an enjoyable flick.

Here's the scene where Junuh is in the woods having a flashback from his days in the war and Vance gets him focused to put that aside and hit his shot:

 

 

4. The Greatest Game Ever Played
Release date:
September 30, 2005
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Stephen Dillane, Peter Firth, Elias Koteas
What made it great: The fact that it's based mostly on truth -- to make it more dramatic for the big screen some parts are a little overdone (like Ouimet's "winning putt" on 18 in the playoff over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, when in reality, Ouimet beat Vardon by five strokes and Ray by six strokes, but don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!) -- is what made it terrific. The Greatest Game Ever Played is the story of Francis Ouimet (portrayed by LaBeouf), who became the first amateur golfer to win the U.S. Open when he turned the trick in 1913 at the posh Country Club in Brookline, Mass. -- a place where he started off working as a caddie at the age of 11. Raised in an immigrant family, Ouimet's story is nothing short of inspiring. In a game that was pretty much exclusive to the wealthy, the working-class Ouimet defied all odds to beat two of the day's best professionals in Vardon and Ray. It was a fun movie about the man regarded as the "Father of Amateur Golf in the United States" before the rise of Bobby Jones.

Fun fact: It was shot in Montreal, Canada. Kanawaki Golf Club, in Kahnawake, Quebec, was the site of the golf scenes.

Here's the winning moment scene:

 

 

3. Happy Gilmore
Release date:
February 16, 1996
Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, Carl Weathers
What made it great: Better yet, what didn't make it great? Twenty years later even the game's best players use the famous "Happy Gilmore" swing when messing around on the range or in long-drive competitions. This was Sandler at his best. The batting cage scene; the ninth green at 9 o'clock scene; the Chubbs Petterson alligator scene; the Bob Barker scene; the "chip with the 5-iron" Shooter McGavin scene; the "mista, mista" old lady/air conditioner scene; Ben Stiller as the mean elderly caretaker bootlegging knitted items. Just a hilarious movie all around with a cast that was just perfect for every role. Can you think of a better Happy Gilmore than Sandler? A better Shooter McGavin than McDonald? A better Chubbs Petterson than Weathers? No, no and no. Here's a look at that Bob Barker scene, which kills me every time:

 

 

Did you know Sandler and Barker created a sequel to the scene years later (warning: video clip has strong language):

 

 

Loved this movie.

2. Tin Cup
Release date:
August 16, 1996
Starring: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin
What made it great: Have you ever heard the phrase, "I got shawshanked" by such and such a movie? If you haven't, it's basically a nod to the tremendous film "The Shawshank Redemption" starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, as in when "The Shawshank Redemption" is on TV, you can't flip past it no matter how many times you've seen it. Well, whenever I flip through the channels and come across "Tin Cup" I get shawshanked. Can't turn it off. At this point, I almost know the movie by heart, but I still watch it whenever it's on. I love it. Costner's Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy basically reminds me of a mix between John Daly and Phil Mickelson (before Phil won a major). Go for broke, always trying to pull off the most unlikely of shots. You're either first or you're last. I love all the cameos in this movie too from the likes of Mickelson, Craig Stadler, Peter Kostis, Peter Jacobsen and more. Costner portrays the ultimate "People's Golfer." McAvoy has a little something about him that anyone can relate too. And his caddie Romeo (played by Cheech Marin) is the best "Romeo" in a drama since Romeo from "Romeo and Juliet." The banter between the too, throughout the movie, is just awesome.

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the movie (the 7-iron bet with David Simms):

 

 

And if you're wondering about the story behind the famous final-hole scene, you can check it out here.

1. Caddyshack
Release date:
July 25, 1980
Starring: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O'Keefe, Bill Murray
What made it great: It's the Jack Nicklaus of golf movies -- the G.O.A.T. The cast of characters is so perfect it's insane. Murray, as greenskeeper Carl Spackler, improvised all of his lines. In fact, a lot of the movie was improvised. Director Harold Ramis basically put together a cast of the funniest people of the day and let them do what they do best -- be funny. While not as completely over the top as the Caddyshack characters, haven't we all run across a Ty Webb, a Danny Noonan, a Carl Spackler, a Judge Smails and an Al Czervik?

For my money, there's no better golf movie than Caddyshack. It's perfect. It can't be topped... proven by the atrocious sequel.

There are too many great scenes to list here, but we'll leave you with Spackler's "Cinderella Story" monologue:

 

 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.