Happy Gilmore

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Happy Gilmore
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Dugan
Produced byRobert Simonds
Written byTim Herlihy
Adam Sandler
Music byMark Mothersbaugh
CinematographyArthur Albert
Edited byJeff Gourson
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 frequent collaborator 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 cinemas on February 16, 1996 by Universal Pictures. Happy Gilmore was a commercial success, earning $41.2 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 an aspiring ice hockey player who lacks on-ice skills, other than a powerful slapshot. After another failed hockey tryout, Happy's girlfriend leaves him because of his hockey obsession and lack of success.

Gilmore's grandmother has not paid her taxes for years, and owes the IRS $270,000 in back taxes. The IRS repossesses her home and intends to auction it off in 90 days unless she can repay the full amount. While repossessing Grandma's furniture, two movers challenge Gilmore to a long-drive contest using his grandfather's old golf clubs. With an unorthodox, slapshot-style swing, Gilmore hits a ball that strikes a house some 400 yards away, winning $40 after the movers bet he cannot do it again. As a result, he starts hustling golfers at the driving range. There, he meets Chubbs Peterson, a club pro and former golf star who lost his right hand after an alligator attack. Chubbs convinces Gilmore to enter a local tournament to earn a spot on the Pro Golf Tour.

Gilmore, desperate to get his grandmother's house back, accepts after Chubbs informs him of the significant prize money involved. Gilmore wins the tournament and a spot on the tour. He quickly becomes a fan favorite due to his long drives and unorthodox antics, such as asking fans to cheer instead of staying quiet, and hiring a homeless man named Otto as his caddy.

Gilmore meets arrogant pro Shooter McGavin, who disapproves of Gilmore's lack of golf etiquette. Though Gilmore has a powerful drive, his putting is terrible, and his outbursts and lack of etiquette draw the attention of Tour Commissioner Doug Thompson, who tries to expel him from the tour. However, public relations head Virginia Venit convinces Thompson to reconsider, citing higher TV ratings, attendance and sponsorship. Venit offers to work on Gilmore's anger issues.

Gilmore begins to improve his performance and behavior due to Virginia's influence. During a pro-am celebrity tournament in which he is partnered with Bob Barker, Gilmore plays poorly due to a heckler named Donald, who had been hired by Shooter. Gilmore and Barker get into a fistfight and, as a result, Gilmore is fined $25,000 and suspended from the tour for one month.

Virginia secures Gilmore an endorsement deal with Subway, allowing him to earn the remaining money needed to take back his grandmother's foreclosed house. However, when Gilmore and the others arrive at the house for the auction, Shooter spitefully outbids Gilmore for the house, before offering it to Gilmore on the condition that he agrees to quit golf. Gilmore initially accepts, but Virginia talks him out of it, telling him that his grandmother would rather see Gilmore be successful than have her house back. Gilmore strikes a deal with Shooter for the upcoming Tour Championship: If Gilmore wins, Shooter will return the house, but if Shooter wins, Gilmore will quit the tour.

In order to improve his short game, Gilmore seeks out Chubbs, and the two head to a miniature golf course to practice putting. Gilmore improves and presents Chubbs with a gift: the head of the alligator that bit off his hand. Chubbs is startled by the head and falls out an open window to his death.

Now determined to win for both Chubbs and his grandmother, Gilmore plays well, and leads Shooter by the end of the third round. On the fourth and final day, Gilmore seems unstoppable until, as per Shooter's orders, Donald hits Gilmore with his car. Gilmore's injuries rob him of his long-drive ability, which causes him to fall into a slump, putting Shooter in the lead. However, after a surprise visit from his grandmother, Gilmore regains his confidence and rallies to match Shooter's score with one hole to play.

On the 18th hole, a TV tower that had been hit by Donald's car earlier falls over, blocking the green. Just as he did at the mini golf course with Chubbs, Gilmore sinks a miraculous trick shot, winning the tournament. Enraged, Shooter steals the winner's gold jacket, only to be beaten up by Gilmore's imposing ex-boss Mr. Larson and a mob of fans. With his grandmother's house recovered, Happy sees a vision of a two-handed Chubbs, Abraham Lincoln, and the alligator; he waves to them as Gilmore's grandmother, Virginia and Otto look on in confusion.


  • Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore, a high-strung former hockey player who discovers a unique talent for golf. He joins the pro golf tour to win some money to save his grandmother’s house.
  • 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[2]



Happy Gilmore was directed by Dennis Dugan,[3] and written by Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumni Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler.[4][5] Herlihy and Sandler were roommates in college and wrote stand-up comedy together, before moving on to screenplays.[4] After Sandler was fired from SNL in 1995, he moved on to films.[6] He and Herlihy wrote Billy Madison (1995),[4][5] 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-foot drive".[5] Judd Apatow performed a script rewrite, although he went uncredited.[7]

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.[8] Meanwhile, Chubbs Peterson's missing hand is an in-joke referencing actor Carl Weathers' film Predator (1987), which depicts his character losing his arm.[9] 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.[5] In a 1994 interview, Sandler cited the golf comedy Caddyshack (1980),[10] a film he and Herlihy bonded over in college,[11] as inspiration.[10]

Former pro golfer Mark Lye served as a consultant on the script,[12] and told Herlihy and Sandler after seeing their initial ideas, "You gotta be crazy. You cannot do a movie like that."[13] 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."[13] 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.[12][13] The final script, the one Lye gave approval, was Herlihy and Sandler's fifth draft.[13]

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.'"[14] Happy Gilmore was produced on a budget of $12 million[9] 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,[15] while interior shots, such as those in the broadcast booth, took place in an abandoned Vancouver hospital.[16] Arthur Albert served as cinematographer, while Mark Lane was the set decorator.[17] Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh composed the film's soundtrack.[9]


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.[9][18] 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.[9] 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.[18]

Happy Gilmore features appearances from Richard Kiel, known for playing Jaws in the James Bond film series;[3] Bob Barker, the host of The Price Is Right;[9] and Verne Lundquist, a football sportscaster.[16]

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.[16]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 61% based on 54 reviews. The website's consensus states "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."[19] On Metacritic, the movie has a weighted average score of 31% based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."[20] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[21]

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".[22] 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".[23] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade "D+" calling it "A one-joke Caddyshack for the blitzed and jaded," although he does praise Sandler's confident performance.[24]

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."[25]

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[26].

Box office[edit]

The film was a commercial success, ranking #2 at the U.S. box office on its debut weekend with $8.5 million in revenue. 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]

In popular culture[edit]

Golf.com, Consequence of Sound, and Golf Digest discussed the film, predominantly praising the villain Shooter McGavin.[27][28][29]

The "Happy Gilmore swing," featuring a walking or running approach, is often imitated or attempted for fun, including by touring golf professionals.[30] Three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington is particularly well known for his impression and even uses the technique in training.[31] 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.[32]

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."[33]

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.[34][35]

In 2015, Sandler and Barker reenacted their fight for the Comedy Central Night of Too Many Stars fundraiser in aid of autism charities.[36]


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


  1. ^ a b c "Happy Gilmore". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 24, 2009.
  2. ^ "4 Instances of Nursing Home Abuse In Happy Gilmore". tramontanalaw.com. J Antonio Tramontana. September 15, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  3. ^ a b McPadden, Mike (February 16, 2016). "20 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". VH1. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Sandler, Adam; Burns, Burnie (February 20, 2012). Burnie Burns Interviews Adam Sandler for Happy Gilmore (YouTube). Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Patches, Matt (July 23, 2015). "The Man Behind Adam Sandler's Movies on 20 Years of Adam Sandler Movies". Esquire. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  6. ^ Sims, David (May 5, 2019). "Adam Sandler Finally Returned to SNL—And He Delivered". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  7. ^ Garrity, Tanner (December 6, 2017). "Judd Apatow's 50 Best Characters, Ranked". InsideHook. Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  8. ^ Mashable Studios (October 6, 2016). 'Happy Gilmore' was inspired by Adam Sandler's childhood friend (Mashable). Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Martin, Andrew (June 8, 2016). "12 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". Screen Rant. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Addiego, Walter (February 16, 1996). "Golf comedy is mostly hazardous". San Francisco Chronicle.
  11. ^ Siegel, Alan (September 11, 2019). "Comedy in the '90s, Part 3: The Bad Boys of 'Saturday Night Live'". The Ringer. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  12. ^ 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. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d McAllister, Mike (February 16, 2016). "Happy 20th, Happy Gilmore!". PGA Tour. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  14. ^ Jones, Emma (August 2, 2013). "'I didn't get into movies to please the critics': Adam Sandler interview". The Independent. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  15. ^ Distasio, Christine (May 22, 2014). "Adam Sandler Accepts Movies Based on Their Amazing Locations & These 9 Roles Prove It". Bustle. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Engel, Mac (November 16, 2016). "Retiring Lundquist recalls "Happy Gilmore"". Fort-Worth Star Telegram. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "Happy Gilmore Cast and Crew". TV Guide. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Withrow, Alex (May 6, 2013). "Full Interview with Christopher McDonald". And So It Begins... Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  19. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  20. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Metacritic. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  21. ^ "Search by Title". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 19, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved August 6, 2019. 1.5/4 stars
  24. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (February 16, 2016). "'Happy Gilmore': EW Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  25. ^ Bignell, Darren (January 1, 2000). "Happy Gilmore". Empire.
  27. ^ "Happy Gilmore Turns 20: In Praise of Shooter McGavin". Consequence of Sound. February 17, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  28. ^ Myers, Alex. "Shooter McGavin is still winning tournaments, is now officially the best villain ever". Golf Digest. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  29. ^ Zak, Sean (September 8, 2015). "Tiger Woods Takes Selfie With Shooter McGavin". Golf.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  30. ^ "Happy Gilmore - European Tour". June 12, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2017 – via YouTube.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Sport Science Happy Gilmore. April 23, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2017 – via YouTube.
  33. ^ "Meet real-life version of Happy Gilmore". GolfChannel.com. March 23, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Bacon, Shane (May 22, 2013). "Lee Trevino wishes he would have never done his 'Happy Gilmore' cameo". Yahoo Sports.
  36. ^ Lawler, Kelly (March 5, 2015). "Adam Sandler and Bob Barker recreate that 'Happy Gilmore' fight scene for a good cause". USA Today. Retrieved August 15, 2019.

External links[edit]