Happy Gilmore

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Happy Gilmore
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Dugan
Written by
Produced byRobert Simonds
CinematographyArthur Albert
Edited byJeff Gourson
Music byMark Mothersbaugh
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 16, 1996 (1996-02-16)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$41.2 million[1]

Happy Gilmore is a 1996 American sports comedy film directed by Dennis Dugan and produced by Robert Simonds. It stars Adam Sandler as the title character, an unsuccessful ice hockey player who discovers a newfound talent for golf. The screenplay was written by Sandler and his writing partner Tim Herlihy, in their second feature collaboration after the previous year's Billy Madison; the film also marks the first of multiple collaborations between Sandler and Dugan. The film was released in theaters on February 16, 1996, by Universal Pictures. Despite receiving mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, Happy Gilmore was a commercial success, earning $39 million on a $12 million budget. The film won an MTV Movie Award for "Best Fight" for Adam Sandler versus Bob Barker.


Happy Gilmore is a short-tempered, unsuccessful ice hockey player who lacks skills other than fighting and a powerful slapshot he learned from his late father. After yet another failed tryout, Happy learns that his grandmother owes the IRS $270,000 in back taxes; she has 90 days to pay off the debt or face foreclosure on her house. Happy sends his grandmother to live in a retirement home, where its residents are mistreated, until he can pay the debt.

Two movers repossessing Happy's grandmother's furniture challenge him to a long-drive contest using his grandfather's old golf clubs. With an unorthodox, slapshot-style swing, Happy hits a ball some 400 yards, winning $40 from the movers. He starts hustling golfers at a driving range and meets Chubbs Peterson, a former professional golf tour star who lost a hand in an alligator attack. Chubbs urges Happy to enter a local tournament where the winner will earn an automatic spot on the tour; Happy, desperate to get back his grandmother's house, agrees when Chubbs informs him of the significant prize money involved.

Happy wins the local tournament and quickly becomes a fan favorite on the tour thanks to his long drives and unorthodox antics, such as asking the crowd to cheer during his swing instead of staying quiet. He also meets arrogant pro Shooter McGavin, who disapproves of his lack of golf etiquette. Though Happy has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible, and his bad behavior draws the ire of tour Commissioner Doug Thompson. Public relations head Virginia Venit convinces him not to expel Happy from the tour, citing improved TV ratings, higher attendance and new sponsorship offers; she promises to help Happy with his anger issues. With Virginia's help, Happy begins to improve his performance and behavior, and the two form a romantic connection.

During a pro-am event, Happy struggles after Shooter hires a heckler, Donald, to antagonize him, and he and his celebrity partner, Bob Barker, get into a fistfight. Happy is fined $25,000 and given a one-month suspension from the tour, jeopardizing his chances to save his grandmother's house, until Virginia secures him an endorsement deal with Subway. However, the house is put up for auction, and Shooter spitefully outbids Happy but offers the house to him if he agrees to quit golf. Happy initially accepts, but Virginia talks him out of it, telling him that his grandmother would rather see Happy be successful. Happy strikes a deal with Shooter for the upcoming Tour Championship: If Happy wins, Shooter will return the house, but if Shooter wins, Happy will quit. Happy seeks out Chubbs, who helps him improve his short game by practicing at a miniature golf course. As thanks, Happy presents Chubbs with the head of the alligator that bit off his hand, but a startled Chubbs falls out of a window to his death.

Now determined to win the Tour Championship for both Chubbs and his grandmother, Happy plays well and leads at the end of the third round. Shooter, desperate to finally win the Tour Championship and get rid of Happy, once again calls on Donald. On the final day, Happy seems unstoppable until Donald drives a car onto the course and runs over Happy, impairing his long-drive ability and his focus. Shooter takes the lead, but Happy, encouraged by his grandmother, rallies to tie Shooter. On the 18th hole, a TV tower damaged by Donald blocks the green, but Happy miraculously uses the fallen tower as a Rube Goldberg machine to sink his putt for the win. Enraged, Shooter tries to steal the winner's gold jacket but is assaulted by a mob of fans, led by Happy's imposing ex-boss, Mr. Larson. Happy sees a vision of a two-handed Chubbs with Abraham Lincoln and the alligator. Happy, his grandmother, his caddy and Virginia head into his grandmother's house to celebrate.


  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a high-strung former hockey player, who discovers a unique talent for golf and joins the pro golf tour to win money to save his grandmother's house. Sandler also provided the voice of the Laughing Clown.
  • Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin, an arrogant golfer who is one of the top stars of the Pro Golf Tour
  • Julie Bowen as Virginia Venit, a public relations director for the Pro Golf Tour who becomes Happy's romantic interest
  • Frances Bay as Grandma Gilmore
  • Carl Weathers as Chubbs Peterson, a pro golfer who was forced to retire early when his hand was bitten off by an alligator. He becomes Happy's coach and mentor to help him win the tournament championship. Weathers reprises the role in Sandler's 2000 film Little Nicky, despite Little Nicky being produced by New Line Cinema.
  • Allen Covert as Otto, a homeless man who becomes Happy's caddy for the tour. The character is unnamed in the film (although his name is revealed in a deleted scene and is listed in the end credits). Covert reprises the role in Sandler's 2011 film Jack and Jill.
  • Kevin Nealon as Gary Potter, an eccentric professional golfer who plays in Gilmore's first tournament
  • Peter Kelamis as Gary Potter's caddy
  • Richard Kiel as Mr. Larson, Happy's towering former boss
  • Dennis Dugan as Doug Thompson, the commissioner of the Pro Golf Tour
  • Joe Flaherty as Donald, an unruly fan hired by Shooter to heckle Happy
  • Jared Van Snellenberg as Happy Gilmore's caddy at the Waterbury Open
  • Will Sasso as Mover #1
  • Lee Trevino as himself
  • Bob Barker as himself
  • Verne Lundquist as himself
  • Mark Lye as himself
  • Ben Stiller as Hal L. (uncredited), the sadistic orderly running the nursing home. Stiller reprises the role as a cameo in Sandler's 2020 film Hubie Halloween.
  • Robert Smigel as IRS agent



Happy Gilmore was directed by Dennis Dugan,[2] and written by Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumni Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler.[3][4] Herlihy and Sandler were roommates in college and wrote stand-up comedy together, before moving on to screenplays.[3] After Sandler was fired from SNL in 1995, he moved on to films.[5] He and Herlihy wrote Billy Madison (1995),[3][4] which proved successful for distributor Universal Pictures. As such, Herlihy and Sandler began a new project. In an office during a brainstorming session, they came up with a high-concept premise for a film about a "hockey player who smacks a 400 yard drive".[4] Judd Apatow performed a script rewrite, although he went uncredited.[6]

The Happy Gilmore character is loosely based on Sandler's childhood friend Kyle McDonough, who played ice hockey and would golf with Sandler as they grew up. Sandler could never hit the ball as far as McDonough, and figured that McDonough's hockey skills gave him an edge.[7] Meanwhile, Chubbs Peterson's missing hand is an in-joke referencing actor Carl Weathers' film Predator (1987), which depicts his character losing his arm.[8] Herlihy and Sandler included any joke that made them laugh and do not remember who came up with which, although Herlihy takes credit for Shooter McGavin's "I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast" line.[4] In a 1994 interview, Sandler cited the golf comedy Caddyshack (1980),[9] a film he and Herlihy bonded over in college,[10] as inspiration.[9]

Former pro golfer Mark Lye served as a consultant on the script,[11] and told Herlihy and Sandler after seeing their initial ideas, "You gotta be crazy. You cannot do a movie like that."[12] According to Lye, the initial drafts featured Happy winning the Masters Tournament: "They had the green jacket. They were desecrating the USGA. Making fun of Augusta National."[12] He suggested that Happy win a fictional tournament, and Herlihy and Sandler changed the jacket's color from green to gold. Lye also disliked the unrealistic nature of early drafts, which depicted Happy repeatedly making 400-yard drives, so he took the crew to a PGA Tour event so they could understand the atmosphere of golf.[11][12] The final script, the one Lye gave approval, was Herlihy and Sandler's fifth draft.[12]

Dugan became attached to direct through Sandler. Years earlier, Dugan had attempted to cast Sandler in one of his films, but the producers did not let him because Sandler was not well-known. "A couple of years later, [Sandler] is big", Dugan said. "I wanted to be hired to direct Happy Gilmore with him. I walk in the room, and he says: 'You're the guy who wanted to give me that part. I don't need to know anything else, I want to work with you.'"[13] Happy Gilmore was produced on a budget of $12 million[8] and filmed entirely at locations in British Columbia. Most scenes taking place at golf courses were filmed at Pitt Meadows at the Swan-e-set Bay Resort & Country Club,[14] while interior shots, such as those in the broadcast booth, took place in an abandoned Vancouver hospital.[15] Arthur Albert served as cinematographer, while Mark Lane was the set decorator.[16] Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh composed the film's soundtrack.[8]


Christopher McDonald declined the role of Shooter McGavin twice because he was tired of playing villains and wanted to spend more time with his family.[8][17] Kevin Costner was approached but turned it down in favor of another 1996 golf-themed comedy, Tin Cup, while Bruce Campbell lobbied hard for the part.[8] McDonald became interested in the role after winning a round of golf, and decided to take it after he met with Sandler. According to McDonald, Dugan "didn't want to see the Bad Guy 101 again" and gave McDonald the freedom to improvise on set.[17]

Happy Gilmore features appearances from Richard Kiel, known for playing Jaws in the James Bond film series;[2] Bob Barker, the host of The Price Is Right;[8] and Verne Lundquist, a football sportscaster.[15]

According to Lundquist, he filmed his scenes in the abandoned hospital as production wrapped. Sandler's New York University roommate Jack Giarraputo sat next to Lundquist in every shot, as Sandler wanted him to appear in the film. In 2016, Lundquist stated he still gets a monthly $34 check from the Screen Actors Guild for his appearance in the film.[15]


Filming took place from July 6 to September 1, 1995, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Box office[edit]

Happy Gilmore was a commercial success, ranking number two at the U.S. box office on its debut weekend with $8.5 million in revenue, behind Broken Arrow. The film was made for $12 million and grossed a total of $41.2 million worldwide, with $38.8 million of that at the North American domestic box office.[1]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Happy Gilmore has an approval rating of 61% based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Those who enjoy Adam 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."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 31 out of 100 based on 14 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."[19] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[20]

Brian Lowry of Variety stated that "The general tone nevertheless makes it difficult to elevate the gags beyond an occasional chuckle". Lowry only noted a few scenes he found inspired, including the fight scene with Bob Barker and when Happy attempts to find his "Happy Place" which was described as "Felliniesque".[21] Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars out of four, stating that Adam Sandler's character "doesn't have a pleasing personality: He seems angry even when he’s not supposed to be, and his habit of pounding everyone he dislikes is tiring in a PG-13 movie". Ebert also noted the film's product placement stating that he "probably missed a few, but I counted Diet Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Subway, Budweiser (in bottles, cans, and Bud-dispensing helmets), Michelob, Visa cards, Bell Atlantic, AT&T, Sizzler, Red Lobster, Wilson, Golf Digest, the ESPN sports network, and Top-Flite golf balls".[22] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade "D+" calling it "A one-joke Caddyshack for the blitzed and jaded," although he did praise Sandler's confident performance.[23]

Darren Bignell of Empire wrote: "The real surprise is that it's a lot of fun, with Sandler becoming more personable as the film progresses, and a couple of truly side-splitting scenes."[24]

Ratings effect[edit]

The scene with Barker beating up Gilmore increased ratings for The Price Is Right among younger demographics. Barker claimed that someone in the audience asked him about Happy Gilmore almost every day. The show's producers had previously tried, but failed, to appeal to a younger demographic with a syndicated variation of the game hosted by Doug Davidson.[25]


Bob Barker
Adam Sander
Bob Barker and Adam Sandler won the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight
Year Award Category Result
1996 MTV Movie Award Best Comedic Performance - Adam Sandler Nominated
1996 MTV Movie Award Best Fight - Adam Sandler and Bob Barker Won
1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Actor - Adam Sandler Nominated
1997 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Actor - Adam Sandler (also for Bulletproof) Nominated
1997 Kids' Choice Awards Best Movie Nominated

In popular culture[edit]

The film has developed a cult following in the golf community, with Golf.com, Consequence of Sound, and Golf Digest praising the film, predominantly praising the villain Shooter McGavin.[26][27][28]

The "Happy Gilmore swing," featuring a walking or running approach, is often imitated or attempted for fun, including by touring golf professionals.[29] Three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington is particularly well known for his impression and even uses the technique in training.[30] The TV series Sport Science has featured Harrington's "Happy Gilmore swing," demonstrating how it can indeed generate additional distance, though at the cost of accuracy.[31]

Long drive champion and professional golfer Jamie Sadlowski, also a former hockey player who can hit golf balls over 400 yards, has been called "the real-life version of Happy Gilmore."[32]

Lee Trevino regrets his appearance in the film and said if he had known how much swearing there would be in the film he would not have done it.[33][34]

In 2015, Sandler and Barker reenacted their fight for the Comedy Central Night of Too Many Stars fundraiser in aid of autism charities.[35]

In 2020, McDonald reprised his role as Shooter in the trailer for the video game PGA Tour 2K21.[36]


In September 2022, Sandler stated that he hopes to eventually make a sequel. The actor explained that he has been creating ideas for what a follow-up movie would be, while stating the character would be involved in a senior golf tour.[37]


  1. ^ a b c "Happy Gilmore". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on July 10, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  2. ^ a b McPadden, Mike (February 16, 2016). "20 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". VH1. Archived from the original on February 18, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Sandler, Adam; Burns, Burnie (February 20, 2012). Burnie Burns Interviews Adam Sandler for Happy Gilmore (YouTube). Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Patches, Matt (July 23, 2015). "The Man Behind Adam Sandler's Movies on 20 Years of Adam Sandler Movies". Esquire. Archived from the original on November 3, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  5. ^ Sims, David (May 5, 2019). "Adam Sandler Finally Returned to SNL—And He Delivered". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on June 5, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Garrity, Tanner (December 6, 2017). "Judd Apatow's 50 Best Characters, Ranked". InsideHook. Archived from the original on August 2, 2019. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  7. ^ Mashable Studios (October 6, 2016). 'Happy Gilmore' was inspired by Adam Sandler's childhood friend (Mashable). Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Martin, Andrew (June 8, 2016). "12 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Addiego, Walter (February 16, 1996). "Golf comedy is mostly hazardous". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 17, 2019. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  10. ^ Siegel, Alan (September 11, 2019). "Comedy in the '90s, Part 3: The Bad Boys of 'Saturday Night Live'". The Ringer. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Sharwood, Anthony (February 16, 2016). "Happy Gilmore Turns 20 This Week, And Now We Know Why The Winner's Jacket Was Yellow". HuffPost Australia. Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d McAllister, Mike (February 16, 2016). "Happy 20th, Happy Gilmore!". PGA Tour. Archived from the original on August 11, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Jones, Emma (August 2, 2013). "'I didn't get into movies to please the critics': Adam Sandler interview". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 28, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  14. ^ Distasio, Christine (May 22, 2014). "Adam Sandler Accepts Movies Based on Their Amazing Locations & These 9 Roles Prove It". Bustle. Archived from the original on August 3, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Engel, Mac (November 16, 2016). "Retiring Lundquist recalls "Happy Gilmore"". Fort-Worth Star Telegram. Archived from the original on July 21, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  16. ^ "Happy Gilmore Cast and Crew". TV Guide. Archived from the original on August 13, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Withrow, Alex (May 6, 2013). "Full Interview with Christopher McDonald". And So It Begins... Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  18. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  19. ^ "Happy Gilmore Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on July 19, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  20. ^ "Search by Title". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  21. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 19, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Variety. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on July 20, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  23. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (February 16, 2016). "'Happy Gilmore': EW Review". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  24. ^ Bignell, Darren (January 1, 2000). "Happy Gilmore". Empire. Archived from the original on July 24, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  25. ^ "SOAPS VETERAN TRIES HIS LUCK AS A GAME SHOW HOST". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on November 25, 2018. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  26. ^ "Happy Gilmore Turns 20: In Praise of Shooter McGavin". Consequence of Sound. February 17, 2016. Archived from the original on August 24, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  27. ^ Myers, Alex. "Shooter McGavin is still winning tournaments, is now officially the best villain ever". Golf Digest. Archived from the original on September 1, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  28. ^ Zak, Sean (September 8, 2015). "Tiger Woods Takes Selfie With Shooter McGavin". Golf.com. Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  29. ^ "Happy Gilmore - European Tour". June 12, 2013. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved April 14, 2017 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ Jackson, Keith (July 14, 2016). Padraig Harrington demonstrates his Happy Gilmore shot at The Open Zone. skysports.com. Event occurs at 5m50s. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  31. ^ Sport Science Happy Gilmore. April 23, 2009. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved April 14, 2017 – via YouTube.
  32. ^ "Meet real-life version of Happy Gilmore". GolfChannel.com. March 23, 2016. Archived from the original on December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  33. ^ Gerik, Jaime (May 20, 2013). "Lee Trevino talks education at UT Tyler 2013 Patriot Golf Classic". CBS19.tv. Archived from the original on June 9, 2013.
  34. ^ Bacon, Shane (May 22, 2013). "Lee Trevino wishes he would have never done his 'Happy Gilmore' cameo". Yahoo Sports. Archived from the original on August 7, 2019. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  35. ^ Lawler, Kelly (March 5, 2015). "Adam Sandler and Bob Barker recreate that 'Happy Gilmore' fight scene for a good cause". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 2, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  36. ^ Makuch, Eddie (August 19, 2020). "Shooter McGavin From Happy Gilmore Stars In New PGA Tour 2K21 Video And He Throws A Fit". GameSpot. Archived from the original on January 22, 2022. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  37. ^ Clayton, Davis (September 29, 2022). "Adam Sandler Talks 'Hustle,' Hosting 'SNL' This Season and Being Open to 'Waterboy' Sequel: 'I Love Mama'". Variety. Retrieved October 5, 2022.

External links[edit]