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A screenshot from the final putt in "Happy Gilmore" and the PGA logo.
YouTube Screenshot (left), Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images (right)

Everybody remembers the final shot from Adam Sandler’s legendary film “Happy Gilmore.” The hockey player-turned-professional golfer with the massive drive spends the whole film perfecting his golf game, beating up alligators (and Bob Barker) in the process. The culmination is one final putt to beat everybody’s least favorite person in Shooter McGavin to win the Tour Championship, put on the gold jacket and win Happy’s grandmother’s house back.

As Happy is lining up that winning putt on the 18th green, a TV tower that had been driven into by Shooter’s henchman falls between the ball and hole. Shooter exclaims that he has “play the ball as it lies” because he hit it off “Frankenstein’s foot” (lol, Mr. Larson). Doug, the commissioner, agrees and Happy goes ahead and hits the most remarkable ricochet shot in the history of golf cinema.

But was Shooter and Doug right that Happy had to play that ball as is? What were to happen if something similar happened in real life at the Masters in Augusta? Here’s what we found.

No, Happy Did Not Have to Play That “As It Lies”

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Of course not. How ridiculous is that? Imagine right before Tiger Woods made that iconic chip on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters — the one that paused briefly before falling in the hole — that a tree snapped and fell in his line. Do you think Masters officials would have just said, “tough snot, hit the ball”? No.

And for proof of that, I wanted to dig into the real rules of the PGA. GolfMagic interviewed a PGA rules expert who had this to say:

“When the ball lies on the putting green and there is interference on the line of a putt from an abnormal course condition then the player may take free relief by placing the original ball or another ball on the spot of the nearest point of relief. The nearest point of relief may be on the putting green or in the general area.

“It should be noted that this relief is optional, so Happy was entitled to play the ball as it lay. History will tell us that despite being given an incorrect ruling Happy Gilmore saw the shot via the windscreen of the VW Beetle, via the pipes and out of the scaffolding tube, took it on and holed it to the joy and amazement of Mr. Larson, Lee Trevino and of course the lovely Virginia.”

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So, Happy technically still could have gone for his head-turning, off-the-Volkswagen-windshield shot, but he didn’t have to. But where exactly could he have placed his ball in this “point of relief”? The Minnesota Golf Association has a page that explains it pretty well, saying that a golfer could place the ball at “the nearest point of complete relief where both physical and line of sight interference no longer exist.”

But because I’m a visual person and I’m sure you are too, I’ll show you how I interpret that:

A screenshot from the final putt in "Happy Gilmore"
YouTube Screenshot

It’s hard to tell exactly where the hole is, but we can assume it’s somewhere just past the TV tower. That means the point of relief would have been all the way around it, so long as there’s a clear path to the hole.

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Happy could have had a much easier shot if the made-up Tour Championship followed actual golf rules. Then again, we wouldn’t have been gifted with the greatest golf shot in film history.

MORE: Where is the “Happy Gilmore” Caddy Today?

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Patrick covered the Florida Gators during the forgettable Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain eras before spending two seasons writing for Major League Baseball. He's an SEC homer and a baseball junkie who spends his days defending the Miami Marlins. When he's not glued to a TV, you can find him ...Read more
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