Sport has always played a big part in storytelling. The use of sporting imagery increases not only the interest factor but also adds a touch of action, particularly while characters are in a strict dialogue mode.
This often transfers well to the big screen, with boxing, baseball, basketball and golf top of the list for authorial diversion. Somehow, a sporting scene will hold the attention of readers and viewers better than if two characters are merely sitting across a bar room table discussing their blossoming romance or their plans to raid Fort Knox.
Golf appears to be the top choice of writers – and it’s not hard to understand why when you look at how some sequences play out in movie houses. Holywood is littered with golf scenes, some of which are the most memorable parts of even the most action-ridden films.
I’m not talking of movies about golf. We all remember such offerings as Caddyshack (Bill Murray), Legend of Bagger Vance (Will Smith), Tin Cup (Kevin Costner), Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler), and Miracle on the 17th Green (Robert Ulrich). No, I’m thinking more of those stories where golf was meant to be little more than a diversion, but where the scene became a defining memory of the overall story.
Remember the golf sequence in Goldfinger? Sean Connery, who was a pretty good exponent of the game, squared up to Gert Frobe for a golf challenge that became an instructional video on how to cheat at the game! And who can forget Oddjob (Harold Sakata) squashing the golf ball into dust in his powerful clenched fist?
The most memorable of all was the performance of Fred Astaire in the 1938 film Carefree. Astaire, a low handicap golfer, was considered by many to have a career as a professional, when he undertook a tricky routine which involved hitting a sequence of golf balls while tap-dancing. What followed was the stuff of legends.
Astaire hit a half-dozen balls with an iron before switching to a driver and dispatching five shots off pre-set tees. The scene was shot only once, in one continuous sequence, made all the more remarkable by the fact that crew members later found the balls lying within eight feet of each other!