Given the difficult and daunting days we are living in and the fact that many families will find themselves watching Netflix, Apple TV and/or Amazon Prime, it seems an appropriate time to tackle movies containing our favourite sport.
These are NOT golf movies (e.g. Caddyshack, Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore) but movies that contain a powerful, dramatic or funny golf scene. Here are the 10 best movies where golf makes a brief but telling appearance.
Probably the best known golf scene of any movie pits Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) against Bond (Sean Connery) for a match at Stoke Park Golf Club. The action kicks off when Bond drops a gold bar beside the hole on the 16th green, causing Goldfinger to miss a simple tap in putt. Goldfinger then proposes a bet for the gold bar and both men resort to skulduggery to win the match: first when Oddjob ‘finds’ his boss’s ball in the rough after dropping a replacement down his trouser leg; and then Bond switches Goldfinger’s ball as they walk off the 17th green… causing Goldfinger to lose the match on the 18th green seconds after Bond had missed a putt for a half. Showing the film’s age (1964), Bond was playing with a Penfold Heart; Goldfinger used a Slazenger 279. In the following scene, Oddjob crushes the Slazenger ball in his hand. No wonder sales of the Penfold Heart soared after the film was released.
Lesson learned: there are some opponents you can never out-fox.
Stoke Park’s impressive mansion clubhouse, built in 1788, also appeared in the Daniel Craig movie, Layer Cake (2004). The opening sequence sees Craig being driven in an Audi RS6 through the golf course and up to the clubhouse, to the sound of The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary. Like the Penfold Heart, sales of the RS6 rose.
- Falling Down
Michael Douglas’s rampage in Falling Down (1993) sees his character, William Foster, walking across a fairway (Industry Hills Golf Club) much to the dismay of two elderly golfers who are playing the hole. After shouting at him to get off the course and muttering the sort of babble that typifies golf as an elitist, elderly, badly dressed, white man’s game, one of the golfers hits a ball that almost strikes Foster. Foster pulls a pump-action shotgun and shoots at the golfer’s buggy. The buggy sets off down the hill towards a lake as the golfer who struck the shot starts having a heart attack. His pills, not surprisingly, are in the cart which is shown splashing into the water. Douglas then finishes the scene with the line:
“Now you’re going to die wearing that stupid little hat. How does it feel?”
Lesson learned: never, ever wear a silly hat.
- Two Days in the Valley
The film Two Days in the Valley (1996) is a thriller with a psychotic hit man (James Spader). One of the cops in pursuit is a washed out, bitter Alvin Strayer (Jeff Daniels). He arrives home, next door to the Weddington Golf Center, and one of his windows promptly gets smashed by an errant shot. Strayer screams that this is the third time his window has been broken and he marches across the street and pulls his gun. One golfer hides behind a tree while another crouches behind his golf bag. Strayer doesn’t shoot anyone which was probably a mistake as the golfer in question was wearing a sleeveless yellow vest.
Lesson learned: wear appropriate attire at all times.
- Enter the Dragon
One of the greatest ever martial arts films (1973) may not seem an obvious place for a golf scene but if all you need is an excuse to show someone giving three bad guys a good kicking, a golf course is as good a place as any. One of the characters, Roper (John Saxon), has a gambling addiction and he’s on the golf course playing for money. When his tee shot ends up in the trees, he is confronted by three heavies looking for payment of a $175K gambling debt. Roper doesn’t like the poor etiquette of being challenged while he’s enjoying a friendly round so he dispatches them with a few kicks before rejoining the game with a chip to a couple of feet.
Lesson learned: it is totally unacceptable to interrupt a golfer mid-round. Expect consequences.
- Johnny English Reborn
From the sublime to the ridiculous. The completely inept spy, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), finds himself in a golf match… quite a feat for a man who has never played the game before. After watching his opponent drive, English pulls out his driver. When asked by his sidekick, Tucker, if he wants a glove, he replies: “I may not know much about golf, Tucker, but I know how to hold the bat.” He then proceeds to hit a decent tee shot while simultaneously releasing the club, which flies upwards, over his head and is plucked out of the air by Tucker as English strolls off down the fairway. The scene was shot at Brocket Hall, in Hertfordshire.
Lesson learned: when all around are losing their heads, keep calm and carry on.
- Lost in Translation
The brilliance of this Lost in Translation (2003) scene is that there is not one word of dialogue. Only the birds can be heard. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) takes time out on his trip to Tokyo and heads for the Kawaguchiko Country Club. Murray is a talented golfer in his own right so it made sense to leave him to it. Dressed in black, he strolls onto the tee with Mount Fuji filling the background. He takes a single practice swing and then dispatches his drive down the middle. Just as the old lads in Falling Down typify everything that’s stuffy about golf, so this scene demonstrates the beauty of the game and the peacefulness of playing alone.
Lesson learned: enjoy the serenity of your surroundings.
- Philadelphia Story
No golfer alive would want to endure the heartache of the opening scene of this 1940 film. Cary Grant is being kicked out of his home by his wife, Katherine Hepburn, for his excessive drinking. As he reaches his car she follows with his golf clubs and throws them on the ground. Golfers everywhere winced… but worse was to follow: Hepburn had pulled an iron from the bag which she then snaps in half over her knee. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down.
Lesson learned: when it comes to golf, always, always, always keep your spouse on side.
- Pat and Mike
Katherine Hepburn may just have acquired the golf bug after mistreating Grant’s clubs so badly in 1940. Playing Pat Pemberton, in the film Pat and Mike (1952), she displays an impressive swing on the driving range after being told co-ordination is ‘where you go bad’ by busy-body Mrs Beminger. With nine balls teed up in a row she hits every ball without even pausing between swings. It’s easy to see how good a golfer she is and, after tossing the driver away, she marches up to the seated Mrs Beminger.
“You know what you can do with your gluteal muscle?” she spits. “Give it away for Christmas.”
Lesson learned: Never give a fellow golfer advice: they might just make you look like a chump.
A scene from the hit movie Sideways (2004) combines so many golfing frustrations: first there’s the friend (Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church) who never shuts up as you prepare to take your shot, offering advice and not seeing a problem with it; second is the recipient of this advice (Miles, played by Paul Giamatti) who eventually loses his cool; and third, there are the golfers on the tee who finally have had enough and drive a ball between the arguing friends… only to find the ball hit straight back at them.
Lesson learned: let faster golfers through… and always be polite, no matter what.
- The Van
It’s not surprising that there’s an Irish scene in here – we have enough golf courses after all and we’ve produced some cracking movies over the years. In Roddy Doyle’s The Van (1996), Larry (Colm Meaney) is giving Bimbo (Donal O’Kelly) a few quick swing tips at St Anne’s Pitch & Putt, in Dollymount. Wearing denim jeans, Larry starts with the ‘Keep your head down’ mantra and encourages Bimbo to hit a shot. Bimbo’s ball disappears over a crest and a shout quickly follows as an irate golfer appears swearing at the duo. The lads scarper as the golfer decides to keep Bimbo’s ball.
Lesson learned: bad language on a golf course doesn’t improve your golf… contrary to popular opinion.
* Saturday Night at the Movies was a hit for The Drifters in 1964.