Golf is a gentleman’s game with oddly democratic principles. Its emphasis on precision over might allows young and old to play it side by side, and this – in some ways – is the crucial point of Tommy’s Honour: the true tale of a legendary golfing dynasty, brought to life by director Jason Connery.
With the historic St Andrews golf club as its backdrop, it tells the story of a father and son who helped to shape the history of the game whilst struggling with the class divisions which ruled over it. Golf lovers will be charmed by the film’s eye for detail, its obvious passion for the sport and strong performances from a winning cast, but even the casual observer may be won around by a heartfelt film with a relatable family drama at its core.
Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) is greens-keeper of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews: a legend of the game, responsible for designing some of Scotland’s greatest courses and pioneering elements of golf’s rules that remain in place today. His son, Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden), is just as dedicated to the game as his father, yet his ambition sets him apart. By 1867, Old Tom has already won the newly formed Open Championship four times, but Tommy is determined to outdo his father: winning the title three years in a row and becoming golf’s first major celebrity.
As Tommy’s prowess and fame grow, so do the dramas which follow him. He rejects the rules concerning the competition’s pay, falling out with the club’s patrons, and initiates a romance with an older woman (Ophelia Lovibond) with a difficult past. Golf falls, roughly, into two phases: the hard work of driving up to the green, and then the delicate task of putting. The latter is easy to capture on camera – its drama is evident with just a static shot – the former is more challenging, since it requires the camera to convey a sense of distance and topography that isn’t immediately clear.
Tommy’s Honour isn’t a virtuoso piece of film-making, some of the golf sequences can be a touch repetitive and unambitious, but it tells its story convincingly. The film will appeal most strongly to golf’s many fanatics, but with so much passion for its subject matter even a cynic might be won around by its warmth and earnestness.