The Old Airport Runway on Teeth of the Dog
It was amazing to be on the tee-box of No. 12 and see a 727 coming right at you
“It was so cool when golfers out playing on Teeth of the Dog would look up and see a huge American Airlines Boeing 727 jet either taking off or landing just a few yards off the course. It was spectacular!” reminisced Gilles Gagnon.
Gagnon is the senior golf sales director at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas as well as “director of golf emeritus.” Often called “the face of Caribbean golf,” he has seen it all in his four decades plus at the superlative Caribbean destination but loves discussing the old airport and its unique runway which were an oddity in the golf world to say the least.
The single runway of the old Punta Aguila International Airport ran parallel to the incredible oceanside holes on the back nine of Teeth of the Dog (Nos. 15 – 17) on one side and the interior of the Pete Dye-designed masterpiece on the other. The only separation between the landing strip and the course was a white picket fence and gates built alongside the 12th and 18th holes which would lower and lock after the airport control tower rang a bell notifying all in earshot that a plane was either taking off or landing.
“It was amazing to be on the tee-box of No. 12 and see a 727 coming right at you,” said Gagnon while laughing about how absurd the situation was. Golf carts and pedestrians would line up right along the fence for the spectacle. “Everybody at the resort stopped whatever they were doing to watch the flights take off and land,” continued Gagnon. “Occasionally the tower staff would forget to sound the bell and surprised golfers or pedestrians crossing the runway would find a plane about to land on top of them. Thankfully, there was never a mishap.”
The old runway dated back to the mid-1960s before Casa de Campo was born. The original landing strip was simply a long dirt path flanked by cans filled with oil that could be lit to help pilots see where they were going in less than ideal flying conditions or at night. It serviced small private aircraft as well as cargo and fumigation planes. In 1978, it was officially named the Punta Aguila International Airport (LRM) when it began commercial operations.
In 1995, the runway was extended to 2,000 meters and the airport started accepting regular flights to La Romana from Puerto Rico and Miami. The new extended runway was long enough for aircraft as large as the Boeing 727. In 2000, the airport moved to its current location just north of the resort as Casa de Campo and the Dominican Republic became a celebrated tourist destination with millions visiting the country annually. Now called the La Romana International Airport (LRM), the full-service facility receives flights and visitors from all over the world.
“People loved watching the planes and were upset when we took the old runway and airport away,” concluded Gagnon. Today, a remnant of the old runway remains just in front of the 18th tee as reminder of one of the most unusual spots to land and takeoff in not only the world of golf but aviation as well.