If you’re a golfer, you can probably attest that golf is a fun, relaxing way to spend a sunny afternoon. You’re outdoors, you’re active, maybe you have a couple of drinks. But unless you love golf, watching it on TV or film has to be as boring as watching paint dry. The new biopic, Tommy’s Honour, about the complex relationship between nineteenth-century golf legend “Young” Tom (Tommy) Morris and his father, “Old” Tom Morris, manages to have just enough drama to carry it through a feature-film length. However, because of a lack of focus, non-golfers will find the film as lacklustre as a televised PGA match.

The movie is told in flashback, with “Old” Tom recalling his son’s legacy to a reporter. The flashback is set in the 1870s, when “Old” Tom (Peter Mullan), a champion golfer, has settled into a content life as the greens keeper for St. Andrews Link. (For non golf fans, St. Andrews is where the English aristocracy play.)  His son Tommy (Jack Lowden), a 15-year-old golf prodigy, aspires for greater things in life. In one early scene, Alexander Boothby (Sam Neil), the captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, comes into “Old” Tom’s workshop, ostensibly to order new golf clubs. Tommy has a verbal altercation with Boothby and later berates his father for acting like Boothby’s slave. As Tommy enters his 20s, he becomes a better golfer than his father, winning three Opens in a row and gaining financial success. He gains enough clout that he can demand to be paid upfront by the members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. During his success, he pursues a romantic relationship with Meg (Ophelia Lovibond), a woman of lower class his religious family at first disproves. When Meg dies giving birth, Tommy enters a despair from which he never recovers.

The film, based on a book by Kevin Cook and adapted to the screen by Cook and his journalist wife, Pamela Marin, is stylistically and thematically similar to the Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire. And director Jason Connery (son of that Sean) may have made a deliberate stylistic choice, given the two films’ shared plotline of a main character overcoming religious and old-fashioned customs to become a success in his sport. Some scenes in Tommy’s Honour seem like they were ripped directly from Chariots of Fire, including Tommy rushing from church to play golf and his rebellion against the wealthy who rule golf.

And copying another movie isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it can be an homage and reference point. Golf, much like Chariots of Fire‘s long-distance running, is a hard sport to watch. They’re both solitary, slow-paced activities that don’t necessarily make a good fit for the big screen. Tommy’s Honour, unfortunately, is unlikely to find the same audience and award success as Chariots of Fire. And that may be due to the film’s inclusion of too much material. There is Tommy’s conflict with religion. And his conflict with his dad. And his conflict with the aristocracy at St. Andrews. And his conflict over his wife with his family. It lacks a strong focus.

However, golf fans will relish in the depiction of 1870s golf matches, which were very different than today’s. Matches then often had only two players competing, and crowds could be very rowdy. You may be surprised to see spectators and players erupting into fights during Tommy’s Honour‘s golf scenes.

But be warned: if you’re not a golf fan, you may find the extensive golf scenes somewhat repetitive. It may even turn you further off golf. And that’s too bad, because Tommy’s Honour could have helped you discover what the plethora of golf fans find entertaining about golf.