As Scottish as shortbread and whisky, this is clearly a labour of love for director Jason Connery. Yesh, that Connery.
It’s the story of father and son golf legends, St Andrews club shop pro Thom (Peter Mullan) and his boy Tom Morris (Jack Lowden), both of them Open champions. Jnr is still the youngest to have claimed the title, at the age of 17 in 1868.
Old Thom is stentorian, gruff, bearded and strict, though not quite as ruled by dour Scottish Presbyterianism as Mrs Morris.
Young Tom is a tearaway, a reckless golfer and flouter of society’s rules, taking a shine to fallen woman waitress (Ophelia Lovibond) and testing the patience of the bewhiskered patricians of the game, represented mainly by Sam Neill.
It’s very handsomely put together and, as a man who’s played his fair share of Father and Son golf matches with an infuriating partner who insists he can take a three wood out of a bunker, I can attest to the generational frictions that play out on the links.
The film is faithful to golf history, dripping with evocative names for anyone interested in this stuff – Musselburgh, Prestwick, Carnoustie. The rough nature of the early game is well-conveyed too. As you’d expect, Connery knows his stuff and you can feel in the film the years of emotions that must have built up having followed his own gruff father around 18 holes.
There’s an old golf joke in there too, that says everything. When the reporter from the Times tells how golf-o-mania is sweeping the country, he says even lady golfers have their own tournaments now. “Don’t their bosoms get in the way?” jests a caddy. “Aye, from their scores, it would seem they do,” replies the reporter. “Then I should like to meet the one who comes in last….”
You can hear such humour echoing around clubhouse bars, a joke handed down from father to son, fusty with sexism. But this is golf, in Scotland, complete with hip flasks and hand warmers, benign weather and glorious coastal views. Don’t tell everyone, but I rather enjoyed it.