THIS month marks 201 years since the birth of Old Tom Morris, the famous St Andrews golfer, four-times winner of the Open Championship, and the man responsible for designing many golf courses around Britain and Ireland.

The 2016 film Tommy’s Honour, filmed in St Andrews, Musselburgh, and many other sites that Morris played at, follows his life as the greenkeeper of St Andrews Links and a golfer in his own right.

It focuses on his complex relationship with his eldest son Tommy (Jack Lowden), better known as Young Tom Morris, and gives a glimpse of the wider golf community in the late 1800s.

Early in the film, Old Tom (Peter Mullan) mentions golf then having a 500-year history, that is, dating back to the 1300s. In fact, the earliest evidence of the sport is from March 1458, when James II’s parliament passed legislation banning golf and football and encouraging his subjects to practice archery instead.

The National:

The ban was repeated by his son James III in 1471 and by the government of James IV in 1491, which called it an “unprofitable sport”.

These kings were worried that a preoccupation with golf and football would leave Scotland less able to defend itself from a potential English invasion. James III’s act even encouraged those who could not shoot well with a bow to instead have an axe and a leather shield ready “to resist the shot of England”.

In the same conversation, Young Tom says that golf’s rules were written a hundred years before, that is, in the mid-1700s. This is a reference to the 13 rules set down by the Society of St Andrews Golfers in 1754. Other towns set down their own rules for their courses, such as Leith in 1744 and Aberdeen in 1783.

In 1834, this St Andrews club of nobles and gentlemen in their red hunting jackets would become the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, after King William IV agreed to become its patron.

The 1754 rules were not the same used at St Andrews in Young Tom’s day. Increasingly detailed rules for the St Andrews course were passed in 1812, 1829, 1842, 1858, and 1875, the year of his death.

We also see Old Tom’s other children, though only a little is revealed about their lives. Young Tom was actually his second son. His first, also called Tom, died in childhood. His third and fourth James (Neil Pendleton) and John (Brett Alan Hart), who was unable to walk and had epilepsy, both went on to work in their father’s golf shop in St Andrews.

James played some golf, competing in the 1876 Open Championship, but was never as successful as his father or brother. In 1875, Old Tom’s daughter, Elizabeth (Kylie Hart), married James Hunter, a Scottish timber merchant working in Alabama and Georgia.

Appropriately, part of his business involved supplying wood for golf clubs. Hunter would go on to support the Morris family financially for the rest of his life. He and Elizabeth had four children who survived childhood. She lived in America until her husband’s death in 1886, after which she and her family returned to St Andrews to live with her father.

Throughout the film, the Old and Young Tom Morrises are shown competing against many other famous golfers of the time. Willie Park of Musselburgh (Ian Pirie) was a rival of Old Tom Morris for more than years.

He won the Open Championship four times, including the inaugural competition in 1860. His brother Mungo (John Walker Gray) won The Open in 1874 and Willie’s son Willie Jr in 1887 and 1889. Willie Jr would go on to design golf courses across Britain, Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The St Andrews caddie Tom Kidd (Jonny McLeish), whom we see playing against Young Tom Morris at the 1873 Open, won that year’s competition but died suddenly of heart failure in 1884, aged about 35.

Arthur Molesworth (Hamish Ireland), whom Young Tom competes against in a snowy marathon game across the St Andrews Links, was an amateur golfer from Westward Ho! in Devon. His two brothers and his father, Captain George Molesworth (Peter Ferdinando), together formed a very successful golfing family.

OLD Tom is also shown designing golf courses around the country, particularly after Young Tom’s death in 1875. Old Tom went on to design or influence about 60 courses in Britain and Ireland. Most of these have been modified since, with Strathpeffer Spa Golf Course, Ross-shire, one of the few still largely unchanged from Old Tom’s design.

He also continued to compete well into his 70s, winning a few matches in Scotland and England. At 72, he even won the annual competition held between his golf shop and the rival store owned by Robert Forgan.

The memorial to Young Tom that Old Tom and the journalist George Atwood Jr (Benjamin Wainwright) visit at the end of the film – and which still stands in the St Andrews Cathedral graveyard today– is proof of the impact of Young Tom’s death on the golf community. It was paid for with donations from members of 60 different clubs, including Captain Molesworth whose son Tom had played his final game against.

As the end credits mention, Old Tom outlived his immediate family. In November 1876, just under a year after Young Tom’s death, Old Tom’s wife Agnes died at 61. Son John died of epilepsy in 1893, aged 33. Daughter Elizabeth died aged 46. In April 1906, Morris’s last child, James, died at 51 of heart failure.

Two years later, Morris himself died after falling down the stairs at the New Golf Club in St Andrews on May 24, 1908, aged 87. He was survived by his grandchildren.

Today, Old Tom Morris is remembered as a key figure in golf’s early history as a competitive sport, whilst his son is seen as one of the first golf prodigies.