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Tommy Morris-The first superstar and his swing.

Swings of the distant past.


Bringing young Tommy`s swing to life.

120x160cm"The first Superstar"-Acrylic on canvas painting from 2015.


Recreating the young Tommy swing through animation is a challenge. It needs careful assessment, as there is virtually nothing in the way of photographic images showing Tommy in an action pose. Only a couple of artificial, studio-posed positions with him taking the address stance. They had to be stiff, the position needed to be"held" for seconds to avoid any blur on the large gelatin plates.








Tommy`s action, using the descriptions of the social media of the day and others that had seen him play.


There are not even any artists' works that gave a suggestion of his swing finish, or a proper full swing address position looking at him from straight on.


Sketch for superstar 1 painting

Fortunately, we do have a number of live comments about how he approached the game. His swing was often a topic in the press of the day.

It was said he would take the game by the scruff of the neck and viciously attack the ball.









He would hit the ball as hard as he could, even to the point of his cap falling off his head as he used every ounce of his strength to gain maximum distance. Also, Tommy had large hands, perfect for speed and creating leverage.


Tommy would hit the ball so hard that his cap would fall off his head. Tommy would often catch the hat before it landed and place it back on his head with a smile for the ladies in the crowd.


"All I`ve got." 100x135cm acrylic on canvas (click on image to expand).


The biggest influencing factor on Tommy`s "modern" swing was the introduction of the gutty ball around the middle of the 19th century.



The legendary story of how, in 1848, Tommy`s father (old Tom) fell out with Allan Robertson the featherie ball-making king, indicates how popular the gutty ball was even before Tommy`s birth.


Old Tom had broken his promise never to use the new ball in play, which Allan Robertson was convinced would ruin his trade. As a result, the two colossuses parted company, with old Tom then setting up his own shop in Prestwick to make both types of golf balls.


Young Tommy grew up with the gutty ball and ensured his swing would not be a replica of his father's languid, flat, softer action; an action that was sympathetic to the long-nose club's fragile construction.


Playing regularly and studying the best players of his day meant that even by twelve years old Tommy had an impressive game. When he won his first Open in 1870 at just 17 years old he was already fully street-hardened.





Tommy grew up in a period when the irons started to find favor. Unlike the easily broken woods, they were not liable to break when striking the ground or shatter from the hardness of the new gutta-percha ball. The introduction of driving cleeks ( 3 iron) and jiggers(chipping wedges) for the approach shots meant a standard set would soon have as many steel-headed clubs as wooden.











An interesting article with film can be found with this link

Tommy`s swing. Sketch on 21cmx29cm art paper(250g). Click on the image to expand.


The matches with David Strath.


One of the most famous chapters of Tommy`s Legend was his battles with David Strath. In the period after Tommy had won his fourth Open (between 1873 and 1875), the two played many engagements. Although such matches were fairly common before the end of the century, the challenges involving Tommy and Davie were of special interest, with high stakes being wagered on both sides. Once the stories of their exploits got out, the media on each side of the Anglo-Scottish border started to report on every match that the two were involved in. Both were out-and-out professionals when they took advantage of the great interest and eventually asked for appearance money( now illegal) to appear in any game. The two had become a team, and even when they competed against each other they would openly laugh and joke together. Malice and jealousy or fear of losing did not exist between the two as they played with what might be called a civilized exuberant rivalry.


Tragically both were struck down with illness and died young. In addition to sharing an enormous talent to play golf, they shared so many other similarities. Close to each other in age and education ( they were well-educated young men) both courted and eventually married older women, and both seemed to enjoy being exposed to the public.

Together they enjoyed the chase of the press and the frenzy around them. Davie was just as confident as Tommy and provided a platform for some of the most memorable matches of the era. The young Davie Strath(he had four famous golfing brothers) was a very different player to Tommy, using a much smoother unhurried swing. He was more the Sam Snead of this time. Naturally, Tommy had to be the Tiger of the day, and probably had just as much energy as his future successor to boot!