'What an incredible Cinderella story ...' 5 great golf movies and a duff one

    Story highlights

    • CNN Sport counts down the top five golf films of all time
    • The 1980 film "Caddyshack" starring Chevy Chase and Bill Murray is No. 1
    • "Happy Gilmore" is second with Kevin Costner's "Tin Cup" third
    • "Legend of Bagger Vance" comes in as one of the worst

    (CNN)The marriage of golf and Hollywood hasn't always been a match made in heaven.

    "The Legend of Bagger Vance" seemingly had all the ingredients for a successful union. A big budget, Robert Redford on directing duties and a cast featuring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron, yet it tanked at the box office.
      But not all films to feature the graceful art of golf have been decried as "excruciatingly boring," by the New York Times.
      Who can forget Kevin Costner at the peak of his powers in the 1996 smash "Tin Cup," the most successful golf film of all time in terms of box office takings?
      Slapstick and silliness are the order of the day in the legendary "Caddyshack," from 1980, that sends up the stuffiness of some golf clubs and stars Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.
      Similarly, Adam Sandler's turn as "Happy Gilmore" in 1996, saw a hothead, foul-mouth ice hockey failure ruffle all sorts of feathers in the restrained and modest world of golf.
      But who came out on top? In reverse order....

      5. PAT AND MIKE (1952)

      A golf caper from a bygone era that stars screen legends Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, described as a "pleasing blue-plate of al fresco warm-weather fare" by the New York Times.
      Released over 60 years ago it chronicles the travails of Pat, an excellent athlete, whose ability is almost crippled when her overbearing fiancé Davie is present.
      She falls apart from a promising position at the ladies' golf championship when Davie pitches up, he wants her to give up on her sporting ambitions so they can get married.
      Pat enlists the help of dodgy sports promoter Mike Conovan to help her hit the top, sparking an enjoyable romp involving heavyweight boxers and mobsters.
      Hepburn and Tracy are on top form, the gags are constant and amusing, and the golf is kept to a minimum -- probably a good idea.
      The Times' verdict? "A likable fable about a highly coordinated dame who moves in upon and takes over a positive, authoritative guy, with slight overtones of honor triumphing over shadiness and greed."
      Who can't get on board with that?


      "The man's a peasant. Peasants do not win Opens."
      Condescending attitudes of the gentry are just one obstacle for poor young American Francis Ouimet to overcome in a classic underdog tale.
      Played by Shia LaBeouf, 20-year-old Francis is obsessed with golf, much to the chagrin of his father -- who wants his boy forget "the fool's game" and get a good honest trade.
      But the film wouldn't last long if young Francis listened to his dad, and he duly gets a job as a caddy at a local course and sets about ruffling feathers within golf's aristocracy.
      Bagging himself a place at the U.S. Open, Ouimet is up against the great Harry Vardon, a six-time major champion over from England, who is expected to win comfortably.
      But -- shock, horror -- Ouimet proves more than a match and forces a playoff against Vardon, with whom he has more in common than many may think.
      The golf sequences are reasonably authentic, and though filmed unashamedly through what seems like a rose-tinted camera, it is one that may well sustain the interest of golf-deniers.
      Qualified praise was offered upon its release by Empire Magazine: "Sentimental? Certainly. Heart-warming and uplifting? Absolutely. A persuasive argument to take golf seriously? Not a chance."

      3. TIN CUP (1996)

      The mid-1990s were the peak Kevin Costner years.
      One of the biggest Hollywood stars at the time, he'd already pulled off two big sporting hits with "Bull Durham" in 1988 and "Field of Dreams" in 1989, both centered on baseball.
      "The Bodyguard" with Whitney Houston cemented him as one of Hollywood's favorite squeezes even before he knocked another out of the park with "Tin Cup."
      "Quite wonderful" was the glowing verdict from Empire Magazine on the most successful golf film of all time in box office terms.
      Costner plays Roy McAvoy, a former pro golfer who lives in a trailer and runs a failing driving range in West Texas, where he knocks about boozing and schmoozing with his pals.
      The arrival of psychologist Molly Griswold, played by Rene Russo, shakes Roy out of his waitress-chasing slumber and reignites his love for the game.
      He gives Molly lessons in return for rebuilding his self-confidence, which is repeatedly undermined by Molly's sleazeball boyfriend and Roy's former golfing nemesis David (played by Don Johnson.)
      Roy vows to win the U.S. Open to teach PGA Tour pro David a lesson, but his cavalier attitude threatens to hurt his chances of success on the course, and off it with his pursuit of Molly.
      A thoroughly enjoyable romp, with Costner in full-on charm mode, it took over $75 million worldwide, according to the IMDB website, and had the majority of critics purring.
      Empire went on: "It's a deliciously witty, profound, sly and erotically charged exploration of love, redemption and one man's quest for immortality."
      Even the New York Times was smitten: "It has such unexpected flair that the game takes on new cachet, to the point where even golf clothes look good."
      High praise indeed.

      2. HAPPY GILMORE (1996)

      In the same year that "Tin Cup" came out, so did a very different golf movie.
      Whether you love or hate "Happy Gilmore" probably depends on how you feel about Adam Sandler and his juvenile schtick.
      But even his most staunch critics would fail to stifle a giggle at his character in this tale about a hothead ice hockey player turning to golf and shaking up the establishment.
      Upon discovering he can launch a golf ball over 400 yards, Happy sets about making the pro tour in a bid to save his grandma's house from repossession.
      Along the way his rage-fueled histrionics -- throwing clubs, swearing profusely, wrestling crocodiles, fighting ex-game show host Bob Barker -- anger the purists but send TV ratings through the roof.
      Happy's extreme behavior provides most of the belly laughs, as does his rivalry with the ultimate smarmy pro, Shooter McGavin, played by Christopher McDonald.
      Film review sit Rotten Tomatoes sums it up neatly: "Those who enjoy Sandler's schtick will find plenty to love in this gleefully juvenile take on professional golf; those who don't, however, will find it unfunny and forgettable."
      The New York Times, clearly, was in the not amused camp: "As effectively as Mr. Sandler projects the volatility of a superannuated teenager, he is too sluggish and inexpressive a screen personality for his antics to convey kinetic excitement."
      They are entitled to their incorrect opinion.

      1. CADDYSHACK (1980)

      A regular at the top of any self-respecting list relating to golf films.
      This 1980 romp sends up the prissiness of an exclusive members' club with a myriad of weird and wonderful characters, none more entertaining than the course's resident gopher.
      Danny is a young caddy trying to earn enough money to go to college who often is on the bag for the ultra-stuffy Judge Elihu Smails or the laid-back, drug-taking, talented Ty Webb, played by Chevy Chase.
      Smails makes an enemy of Al Czervik, a brash property developer with an endless string of cheesy one-liners, who is affronted by what he calls a "snobatorium."
      Both Danny and Ty vie for the affections of Lacey Underall, played by Cindy Morgan, the flirtatious niece of the judge, and are roped into a score-settling doubles match between Smails and Czervik.
      In the background is a star turn from Bill Murray, who as greenkeeper Carl Spackler enlists a multitude of explosives in an attempt to terminate the gopher that is threatening to churn up the entire course.
      Childish and in parts preposterous, Caddyshack remains popular to this day with golf fans and non-golfers alike who delighted in the upper classes being ridiculed mercilessly.
      Empire's review captures the film perfectly: "It's not big and it's not clever, but it's very, very funny."
      The less said about Caddyshack 2, the better.
      And the worst.... ?


      A golf epic with a reported $60 million budget, directed by Robert Redford and starring Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron. What could possibly go wrong?
      Quite a few things it turns out.
      The story revolves around Damon's Rannulph Junuh, a former star golfer down on his luck since returning from war and estranged from his girlfriend Adele Invergordon (Theron.)
      But after being roped into an exhibition match with two golfing legends of the time, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, Rannulph meets mystical caddy Bagger Vance, played by Smith.
      Bagger proceeds to offer golf and life tips to the recovering Rannulph, who turns his game around and starts to win back the affections of Adele. You can probably guess the rest.
      The film clawed back only half of its budget, according to IMDB, and was even accused of racist undertones, with Bagger seemingly existing solely to serve the needs of a white man.
      The critics queued up to hit it into the long rough, none more so than the New York Times.
      It said: "Not only is it excruciatingly boring -- the cinematic equivalent of a pleasant walk in the country spoiled by pointless distractions -- but its central premises are so banal and dubious as to border on offensiveness."
        Funnily enough, there was no "Legend of Bagger Vance 2."