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Saturday, June 15. 2013
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.
Much more below the fold.
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:
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.
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 indy 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!
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Bravo! Great selection of clips, Dr. M. The "Tin Cup" one was hysterical. Golf hijinks! Ever done the "exploding ball" trick?
As s'matter o' fact, yes. Did it to an older guy who lived in the same house I did. He rekindled my interest in the game. As I recall, it was done perfectly, with him teeing up the ball, then someone distracting him while I switched it with the exploding ball. One swing later and he was covered in what looked like flour. Oh, for want of a camera!
For shame Doc - for shame.
None of those compare to "Caddy Shack". How could you not include "Caddy Shack" the greatest golf movie of all time?
Ugh - unbelievable...no "Caddy Shack". It's like saying that "Slapshot" isn't the greatest sports film of all time. Or saying that the original "Star Wars" trilogy weren't the greatest scifi movies of all time. That "Citizen Kane" was a movie about a sled named Rosebud. What the heck were you thinking?
I've lost all faith in you Doc - you're no longer on the 1/32" high pedestal I used to place you on as a partial step above all others.
No "Caddy Shack" in story about golf movies...unbelievable.
1. It's "Caddyshack", one word
2. I mentioned it once
3. One of the clips is from it
But thanks for joining in, just the same!
(Tom's going to hate me for saying this, but it's just too precious to pass up)
Doc - I think I figured out why Tom missed the Caddyshack clip. As you clearly warned:
"And, finally, something for the intellectual crowd."
No wonder he skipped over it. :)
ZING! If he'd said something positive, like "Nice article BUT...", I would have emailed him and offered to delete the embarrassing comment. But since it was nothing but foaming-at-the-mouth vitriol from the onset, I figured he deserved whatever was handed out. Your comment was just perfect. Say, Tom, got a hot meal for ya.
I've heard "crow under glass" is slightly more palatable.
Well, as with most fine foods, it's all in the sauce. I'm thinking a touch of red wine with assorted herbs and maybe the merest hint of garlic. Marinate for an hour, then a slow simmer over mesquite briquets. Finger-lickin' good!
Wonderful post, doc, my favorite of the week. Where else but on Maggie's Farm do you learn valuable golf lessons from Zen masters??
There's a special that comes on cable once in a while about the making of Caddyshack. I highly recommend it. My two favorite tidbits:
-They did NOT have permission to blow up the golf course at the end, so had to nail it one take.
-Rodney Dangerfield's audition consisted of rolling in to Harold Ramis' office wearing a coke spoon necklace, laying out a line of coke on the desk, finishing it and then announcing, "Let's Eat!"