Bob Grimsdell was South Africa’s premier golf course architect for almost half a century, from the 1930s through to the end of the 1970s. In his lifetime he was evidently involved in over a hundred commissions.
He was born in England about 1897, and came to South Africa as a teenager on his own. He served with the SA Forces in France during World War One. He became a pro golfer after the war and served as the club pro at Chorley Golf Club in Lancashire. There he became interested in golf course architecture, and began friendships with two of the leading designers of the time, Harry Colt and Charles Alison. It was from them that he learned much of his skills as a designer.
Grimsdell and his wife moved back to Cape Town in the early 1920s, where he took the club pro position at Mowbray Golf Club. In 1926 he became the club pro at Johannesburg Golf Club. He had that job for 20 years and in that time designed several courses. He left Johannesburg in 1946 because of the crime! His house had been burgled several times. He moved to Vereeniging, and began a full-time career as a course architect.
Not much is known about his movements after that before he settled in Nottingham Road. He had a strong association with Scottburgh on the South Coast. He lived in Nottingham Road from the 1960s onwards. That might have been after he designed Bosch Hoek in the early 1960s.
As many as 17 of his courses are currently ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 100, most notably the East course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington, the River Club in Johannesburg, Victoria CC in Maritzburg, and Sishen in the Northern Cape, which was the last course he designed before he died, in September 1986.
Grimsdell was also a good golfer himself. He was runner-up in both the 1931 and 1932 South African Opens, and reached the final of the old SA Pro Matchplay Championship on four occasions, losing every time, in 1925, 1927, 1929 and 1932.