Tommy’s Honour

by Toby Woollaston

tommyGolf has never been my thing.  The concept is simple but, as many know, in practice it is a very difficult and frustrating game.  Perhaps telling a story about the game is no easier, as Tommy’s Honour returns a mixed scorecard.

Pamela Martin’s first feature screenplay has seen the fledgeling screenwriter transfer her writing talents from the New York offices of Playboy magazine to the windswept greens of St. Andrews. Quite a significant change of scenery, one would think.  Based on the book of the same name by Kevin Cook (Pamela’s husband), Tommy’s Honour tells the true story of Old Tom Morris and his son Tommy—both historical juggernauts of the modern game of golf. 

Young Tommy Morris, played by Scotland’s rising star Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), is a renegade among the golfing fraternity. His desire to see golfing competitors elevate themselves above their role as mere chattels for the “Gentlemen” who wager on their results, proves a difficult task. Thankfully he’s one of the world’s best—a useful skill for a man who champions pay equity and a softening of the class difference within the seemingly impenetrable golfing society.  Tommy is fiercely independent and ruffles plenty of feathers, while his father looks on seemingly helpless to sway his fervent son.  Tommy’s extracurricular activities of drinking, goofing around, and his love for an unfavourable woman named Meg (played by Ophelia Lovibond) derail his golfing ambitions, with the latter having far reaching consequences.

Unfortunately the story seems to cast Tommy’s father, Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) into the margins a little too often.  He isn’t really given his due as a course designer, and the film clearly opts to tell the more dramatic (and sellable) story of his son. Shame, because Old Tom Morris’ story deserved a more thorough exploration. 

Tommy’s Honour works well as an entertaining yarn but falls short of the historical document that it purports to be. Unlike my golf game, Tommy’s Honour just makes par, but like my golf game, it remains an exercise in frustration that something more could’ve been made of it.

Read my reviews on the NZ Herald’s website here.