After nearly 13 years on the job, Dick Rugge has announced plans to retire next year as Senior Technical Director of the USGA.
Rugge, 64, will end his tenure as the governing body's head of technology on February 2, 2013 - an era during which he oversaw decisions and reforms surrounding a variety of equipment issues.
Assuming his post in May 2000 while the game was still embroiled in controversy surrounding drivers and the phrase 'spring-like effect,' Rugge worked to bridge communication gaps between the USGA and various equipment manufacturers. Under his watch, the USGA implemented more equipment-related rules than at any other time in its history.
His most notable work came when he led an investigation into aggressive grooves on wedges and irons, and whether they had an undue effect on spin rates. Although the debate garnered criticism from players including Phil Mickelson and led to lawsuits filed against the USGA, ultimately a rule was enacted to limit the shape and sharpness of grooves on wedges and irons.
Along with the groove restrictions, the USGA also expanded rules allowing for club adjustability at the same time - a decision that Rugge himself feels is the most significant change during his tenure. He explained to Golf Digest that the rule 'will continue to evolve in ways that benefit golfers, manufacturers, retailers and even golf journalists, all without harming the challenge of the game.'
'Dick will leave behind a Research and Test Center team that is extremely well-positioned to handle its mission moving forward,' USGA Executive Director Mike Davis wrote in a letter to staff announcing Rugge's retirement. 'His contributions to the USGA have been invaluable.'