Let’s not kid ourselves, the track record of directors making golf movies is not littered with Oscars and Golden Globes. The list of the best movies within the genre tends to stall after a trio of comedies, “Caddyshack,” “Tin Cup” and “Happy Gilmour,” all of which are now at least two decades old.
Still, Jason Connery wasn’t disturbed by all this when taking on “Tommy’s Honour,” a film about Old and Young Tom Morris, the legendary father-son Scottish duo who changed the face of golf in the late 19th century, set for released in theaters April 14. Perhaps that’s because Connery, son of famed actor Sean Connery, insists he wasn’t making a golf movie but rather a drama—with romantic and ultimately, tragic subplots—whose lead characters happen to play golf.
The making of “Tommy’s Honour” is an intriguing story, one that Connery shares on the latest Golf Digest podcast. Trying to film a movie set nearly 150 years ago creates its own challenges. As Connery explains, replicating the famed R&A clubhouse and the Old Course at St. Andrews involved some ingenuity and a little bit of movie magic (read: CGI). Simply setting up shop in the Old Gray Toon wouldn’t work, as its modern trappings would undermine the film’s authenticity. So Connery improvised, building two golf holes and a replica of the R&A clubhouse in an open field outside St. Andrews to film many of the golf scenes. The strategy allowed him to grow the fairways and greens to more accurately reflect the less manicured look of the courses of the day.
Connery also explains how the dilemma of finding actors with some golf bona fides was less an issue for him than other directors. The fact that Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden, who play Old and Young Tom, respectively, were not golfers served them well in trying to learn how to hit a feathery golf ball with a hickory shafted niblick, something that requires a different swing than one employed with modern equipment.
In terms of the nearest comparison of his film to a prior “golf” movie, Connery points to the story of Francis Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Connery says he spoke with that movie’s director, Bill Paxton, a friend from previous film work, before filming shooting his picture over 33 days (and in 50 locations) in 2015 for advice.
“He was very helpful in the sense that he talked about the humanness of the story,” Connery said. “The human story was the thing that was going to really get people to invest and it wouldn’t be polarizing.”
With Paxton’s death earlier this year, Connery laments that his friend won’t be able to see “Tommy’s Honour” on the big screen. But he feels Paxton would be impressed, as he hopes audiences at large will when they watch this drama that just happens to be about the lives of two famous golfers.