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
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 caddie.

Gilmore meets arrogant pro Shooter McGavin, who sees him as a detriment to golf’s 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, drawing more youthful sponsors. 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 tournament in which he is partnered with Bob Barker, Gilmore plays poorly due a heckler named Donald, who had been hired by Shooter. Gilmore and Barker get into a fist fight 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 and offers 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 his hand off. 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 him with a VW Beetle. 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 pull even with Shooter with one hole to play.

On the 18th hole, a TV tower that was 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 get beaten up by Mr. Larson, Gilmore’s imposing ex-boss, 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 and 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 pro who Happy plays with in his 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


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."[2] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 31% based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."[3] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[4]

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”.[5] 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”.[6] 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.[7]

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."[8]

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.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

The film was a commercial success, ranking #2 at the US 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]


Golf.com, Consequence of Sound, and Golf Digest discussed the film, predominantly praising the villain Shooter McGavin.[9][10][11] Other articles have covered relatively unknown trivial facts, such as Carl Weathers’s missing arm, which was the same arm from the movie Predator, and the number of times nurse orderly Hal committed nursing home abuse.[12][13]

The “Happy Gilmore swing,” featuring a walking or running approach, is often imitated or attempted for fun, including by touring golf professionals.[14] Three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington is particularly well known for his impression and even uses the technique in training.[15] 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.[16]

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.”[17]

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.[18][19]

In 2015, Sandler and Barker reenacted their fight for the Comedy Central Night of Too Many Stars fundraiser in aid of autism charities.[20]


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
1997 Kid’s Choice Awards Best Movie Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Happy Gilmore". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Happy Gilmore". Metacritic. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  4. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  5. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 19, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Happy Gilmore". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved August 6, 2019. 1.5/4 stars
  7. ^ Owen Gleiberman (February 16, 2016). "'Happy Gilmore': EW Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  8. ^ Darren Bignell (1 January 2000). "Happy Gilmore". Empire.
  9. ^ "Happy Gilmore Turns 20: In Praise of Shooter McGavin". 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  10. ^ Myers, Alex. "Shooter McGavin is still winning tournaments, is now officially the best villain ever - Golf Digest". Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  11. ^ "Tiger Woods Takes Selfie With Shooter McGavin". Retrieved 2016-08-23.
  12. ^ "12 Things You Didn't Know About Happy Gilmore". 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  13. ^ "4 Instances of Nursing Home Abuse In Happy Gilmore - J Antonio Tramontana - Personal Injury Attorney". 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  14. ^ "Happy Gilmore - European Tour". 2013-06-12. Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  15. ^ "Padraig Harrington demonstrates his Happy Gilmore shot at The Open Zone". Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  16. ^ Sport Science Happy Gilmore. 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2017-04-14 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ "Golf Channel Digital - Meet real-life version of Happy Gilmore". 2016-03-23. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  18. ^ Jaime Gerik (May 20, 2013). "Lee Trevino talks education at UT Tyler 2013 Patriot Golf Classic". CBS19.tv. Archived from the original on 2013-06-09.
  19. ^ Shane Bacon (May 22, 2013). "Lee Trevino wishes he would have never done his 'Happy Gilmore' cameo". sports.yahoo.com.
  20. ^ "Adam Sandler and Bob Barker recreate that 'Happy Gilmore' fight scene for a good cause". USA TODAY. Retrieved 15 August 2019.

External links[edit]