Who's who: Old Tom Morris

  • Photo of Old Tom Morris
  • scotland.png
  • Photo of Old Tom Morris
  • Photo of Rosapenna - Old Tom Morris Links Course.jpg
  • Photo of Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris Links) Golf Course 11
  • Photo of Old Tom Morris
  • Photo of Old Tom Morris
  • scotland.png
  • Photo of Old Tom Morris
  • Photo of Rosapenna - Old Tom Morris Links Course.jpg
  • Photo of Rosapenna (Old Tom Morris Links) Golf Course 11
  • Photo of Old Tom Morris

Who's who: Old Tom Morris

  • Name:

    Thomas Mitchell Morris (aka "Old Tom Morris")
  • Country:

    Scotland
  • Lived:

    [1821-1908]. Born on June 16, 1821 in St Andrews, Fife. Died on May 24, 1908 in St Andrews (age 86).
  • Original/Home Club:

    St Andrews, Fife
  • Occupation:

    Professional golfer, course designer, club & ball maker, greenkeeper, instructor.
  • Turned Pro:

    1830s

Roll of Honour

MAJORS (4): The Open Championship 1861, '62, '64, '67. Oldest winner of the Open Championship (age 46). World Golf Hall of Fame (inducted in 1976).

Golf course design

Morris designed or remodeled over 75 courses. His best known designs include some of the most renowned courses in Britain & Ireland.

SCOTLAND: Championship course, Carnoustie (1842); Crail-Balcomie Links (1895); Cruden Bay (1899); Cullen Links (1870); Dunbar (1856); Forfar (1871); Glasgow-Killermont (1903); Luffness New (1894); Lundin Links (1868); Machrihanish (1876); Moray Old (1889); Muirfield (1891); Nairn (1887); Panmure (1895); Prestwick (1851); Royal Burgess (1894); Royal Dornoch (1877, extension from 9 to 18 holes); Scotscraig (1891); New course, St Andrews (1895); Old course, St Andrews (modifications 1850-1900); Tain (1890); West Kilbride (1893).

ENGLAND: Castletown (1892); Goring & Streatley (1895); Royal Cromer (1888); Royal North Devon (1864); Wallasey (1891).

IRELAND: Lahinch (1892); Rosapenna (1893); Royal County Down (1889, extension from 9 to 18 holes).

Did you know?

Old Tom Morris, as he is best known, was a pioneer of professional golf and golf course design, as well as a renowned greenkeeper, and club and ball maker. He remains the oldest winner of the Open Championship, which he achieved in 1867 aged 46. The following year his son, Young Tom Morris, became the youngest ever champion at age 17.

Morris was born in St Andrews in 1821, the son of a weaver. He started caddying and playing golf at a young age, and served as an apprentice to Allan Robertson (club and ball maker), who is generally recognised to be the world's first professional golfer, and best player of the mid-1800s. Morris and Robertson made a formidable challenge match pairing on the golf course, earning the title "The Invincibles." However, the master-apprentice relationship between them ensured the two rarely played against each other, which created a question mark over who was really the best player of the 1840-60 era, Morris or Robertson? Morris was eventually sacked by Robertson. He was caught playing the new gutta-percha golf ball, while Robertson's profitable business was based on the older hand-made featherie ball.

Following his summary dismissal by Allan Robertson, Morris crossed to Scotland's west coast with his wife Agnes (née Bayne) and young son Tommy, and took up the post of Keeper of the Green, and Club & Ball Maker at Prestwick GC. He was influential in organising the first Open Championship in 1860 (held at Prestwick), the object of which was to find the new "champion" golfer, following the death of Allan Robertson in 1859. Morris won four of the first eight Open Championships. The Open didn't move from Prestwick until 1872, when it became one of three courses on a rota with St Andrews and Musselburgh. Morris had already returned to St Andrews (in 1865), where he was appointed greenkeeper and professional, on a handsome salary of £50 per annum.

In the ensuing years from 1865, Morris worked as a greenkeeper, club and ball maker, golf instructor, and course designer, as well as regularly playing in challenge matches and tournaments. He became a pioneer in golf course design, as well as the father of modern greenkeeping. He standardized golf courses to 18 holes (St Andrews had been a 22-hole course). He introduced the option of having two nine-hole loops, each one returning to the clubhouse, rather than simply having a loop of 18-holes that comprised an outward nine journeying away from the clubhouse, and an inward nine that brought you back again. In greenkeeping, Morris established many new ideas in turf and course management, including the concept of top-dressing greens with sand. He also advocated the active management of hazards, which in the past had generally been left untended, and often turned into truly "hazardous" obstacles. He also introduced the concept of having bunkers strategically positioned at the sides of fairways, rather than just sprawling haphazardly across them. Morris left his imprint on the Old Course, St Andrews by widening the fairways to handle increased play, enlarging the greens and establishing separate tee boxes on each hole. In the mid-1890s Morris laid out the New Course at St Andrews, which opened for play in 1895.

Old Tom Morris kept working right up until his death, which occured after falling down a flight of stairs in the clubhouse of the New Golf Club in St Andrews. He is buried in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, where his grave attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Top tournaments won by Old Tom Morris

1867
Majors
170
£7
R&A

Category

Majors

Winner (holder)

Morris, Old Tom

Score

170

Prize money

£7

Title sponsor

R&A

The Open Championship (8th) (Sept 26). Second-placed Willie Park (Scot) finished 2 shots behind Morris (Scot). This was the last of Old Tom Morris's four Open Championship wins. [Prestwick GC, Ayrshire, Scotland].

1864
Majors
167
£6
R&A

Category

Majors

Winner (holder)

Morris, Old Tom

Score

167

Prize money

£6

Title sponsor

R&A

The Open Championship (5th) (Sept 16). Second-placed Andrew Strath (Scot) finished 2 shots behind Morris (Scot). This was the third of Old Tom Morris's four Open Championship wins. [Prestwick GC, Ayrshire, Scotland].

Category

Majors

Winner (holder)

Morris, Old Tom

Score

163

Prize money

Title sponsor

R&A

The Open Championship (3rd) (Sept 11). Second-placed Willie Park Sr (Scot) finished 13 shots behind defending champion Morris (Scot). This was the second of Old Tom Morris's four Open Championship wins. [Prestwick GC, Ayrshire, Scotland].

Category

Majors

Winner (holder)

Morris, Old Tom

Score

163

Prize money

Title sponsor

R&A

The Open Championship (2nd) (Sept 26). Second-placed and defending champion Willie Park Sr (Scot) finished 4 shots behind Morris (Scot). This was the first of Old Tom Morris's four Open Championship wins. Amateurs were allowed to enter The Open from this year onward. [Prestwick GC, Ayrshire, Scotland].

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