One of the most unique arrangements where Aviation inter-weaved (literally) with Golf, was at the old Punta Aguila Airport in La Romana, Dominican Republic. If you were lucky to have experienced this in the mid to late 90s, after teeing off, a guard opened a small gate, which allowed you to cross the main runway, and continue to the fairway. Yes, you read that right. A golf course that included crossing the Runway of an international Airport. This world famous course is called Teeth of The Dog, and was designed by one of the most famous American golf course designers, Pete Dye.
Separating vehicles and pedestrians from the Runway, was a small picket fence which was about a foot and a half tall (0.45 Meters), which you could easily walk through and get to the Runway. I never dared jump the fence, but I was around that area quite a bit, getting as close as I could to the massive, super loud, American Airlines Boeing 727, that would land and then soon take off again, back to Miami.
In Casa de Campo (the resort where the Punta Aguila Airport used to be located) one of the most common forms of transportation is a Golf Cart. If you ever visit Casa de Campo, you will see them everywhere, and they can be rented at the Hotel, or may be included with your Villa rental. Once in a while I would go over there and ride around with my friends. This is where it all began.
One afternoon, and I am estimating this must have been 1997 or 1998, my friend Carlos and I were riding around in a golf cart and had just visited the Dude Ranch, Minitas Beach, the Driving Range, and I had timed everything so we could see the 727 land, which usually happened early in the afternoon.
This Airport did not have any Taxiways, so when the 727 landed, it had to go all the way to the end of the Runway, and do a 180° turn to go back to the terminal. We were stopped on a parallel road towards the end of the Runway (see red arrow below). Finally, at a distance, we could see it arriving. It landed, deployed the spoilers, and one of the loudest thrust reversers you will ever hear, which were produced by the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines. It then came all the way to the end, and slowly starting turning around.
At that moment I looked over at Carlos and I think we both thought of the craziest idea at the same time…then I said “when it turns around and comes forward a little bit…let’s race it!”.
In the image above, you can see how close you actually were to the Aircraft, and we were just a few feet in front, waiting for it to catch up. As it did, Carlos accelerated while I waved and tried to get the attention of the pilots, and as expected, we did not receive a response. A few seconds later however, I could see the First Officer point at us, and immediately the Captain’s head turned our way and he started laughing. To our amazement, we heard the engines spooling up, the 727 started to gain speed and soon caught up to us. We lasted less than 10 seconds in the lead. But the best memory I have, the moment of ecstasy, was when after telling Carlos “they are racing us!” in excitement, when I looked back at the Aircraft, the Captain was acting as if he was running inside the Cockpit. He had closed fists and raised one while lowered the other, and repeated the action several times to look like a “running man”, all while laughing. As he reached the point where he needed to Taxi into the Terminal, he slowed down and we caught up. He looked over at us while continuing to laugh, clearly having just as much fun as we were, and then gave us a Thumbs up and turned the Aircraft into the Terminal. We looked at each other in complete disbelief, still amazed by what had just happened 😱
To the Captain and First Officer of this Boeing 727 for American Airlines, if you ever read this, Thank you!!! You created a fun and unforgettable memory in my teenage years. Godspeed.