In The Spirit Of The Green

There's something somewhat interesting about the game of golf:

It's not a game.

It's not a sport.

It's not a contest.

It's not a competition.

It's not really much at all.

It's just you, a field, a ball and some clubs, and the only fellow competitor within sight is a man who might have died twenty years before.

It can be made into a sport, of course, but golf, in its essence, involves no one but you and the course designer, perhaps long passed on these many years.

Even when others are on the field, you're not playing against these players.  There's none of the sez you mentality you see in normal sports.  It's just you, the course, and the fewest number of swings you can make to see it through to the end.

Except for the pros, where they really do have the option of cutting the corner by knocking it over the trees on a par-5 dogleg, for everyone else there's really just one shot in the bag, and you really want nothing more than for it to be your best shot — and the score and fellow competitors be damned.

In that moment you step up to the ball, it is nothing but essence.

This clip from The Legend of Bagger Vance demonstrates this fairly well.

You have to look with soft eyes.

In regards to golf movies, one thing that strikes me as interesting is that there doesn't appear to be a 'best' golf movie.  When it comes to the 'best' baseball movie, arguments will rage all day long between Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, the recent Moneyball, some classic like Pride of the Yankees, and a few others.  But I don't recall anyone ever claiming a particular golf movie to be the 'best'.  The indomitable Caddyshack will be mentioned at some point, but it was just a golf-centric comedy, not an actual movie touching upon the intricacies of the game.

And, to be honest, I can see why there's no 'best'.  I wouldn't classify any movie on this page as 'exceptional'.  The golf parts were marvelously done, but — you know Hollywood — there always has to be some other traumatic or unnerving event going on at the time to distract our hero.

In the case of Bagger Vance, the aforementioned unnerving event came in the form of the luscious Charlize Theron hanging around the fringes, both literally and figuratively, distracting poor Matt Damon.  But as you saw in the above clip, at least they tried to delve into the inner workings of the game.

Likewise, The Greatest Game Ever Played also touched upon clearing the mind.  Much of that involves filtering out the crowd noise, but another part involves the hidden demons of the game, like the great Harry Vardon suffering here from the yips.

Shia LaBeouf stars, with his own personal unnerving distraction being the small issue of his dad not approving of his playing golf and only threatening to kick him out of the house if he continues.  The one thing ol' dad doesn't quite pick up on is that when he issues his threat, Shia is halfway through winning the friggin' U.S. Open.

Here's a quick comedic moment:

Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner, Rene Russo and Don Johnson, occasionally tries to touch upon the spirit of the game, but overall it's just a fun lark. Here's Don imparting a valuable golf lesson to ol' Cup:

In this movie, Costner's personal unnerving demons involve (1) having an IQ of about 90, (2) falling for Rene Russo, and (3) being determined to 'go for it', as exemplified by his being on the verge of winning the friggin' U.S. Open and pissing it away.  There's a small creek in front of the green.  Everyone else lays up.  Costner, of course, has to go for it and plunks about nine balls into the brook.  He could take a stroke and play from where it went into the drink, of course, but he's [close-up showing fire in his eyes] determined to make the shot.  Naturally, the tenth shot goes over the creek and rolls right into the cup.  To wild applause, I might add.  Good ol' Hollywood, right there in the nick of time.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that all of the movies on this page are actually golf movies…

That's from Down Periscope, a rollicking good yarn starring Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, and a great supporting cast.

And then there's Welcome To Mooseport:

And, finally, something for the intellectual crowd.  In the famous independent flick Zen And The Art Of Golf Maintenance, we are given philosophical keys to the mysteries of the game that simply no other golf movie imparts:

I think my game's sharper already!