Flying: The Full Circle
in 2008, I wrote an article about how golf & flying don’t
mix. There had been an incident on a golf course runway
where a couple, a man and his wife in a golf cart, scooted
out onto that strip just as I was landing on it. It was
only by some miracle that the driver of the cart saw my
airplane, in quite literally “the nick of time”. She
managed to stop just as the wingtip swept past her
windshield with mere inches to spare. We were on a
collision course, and the prop was spinning at about 1500
rpm. There was no way the airplane and the golf cart would
avoid contact had the cart not stopped.
Big signs on the cart paths warned
golfers to stop and check both directions for incoming and
departing aircraft, prior to entering the runway. However,
since there was never much air traffic, golfers had become
complacent and it was rare that they even glanced around
while crossing the strip.
It taught me a lesson about operating an
airplane in an area where non-pilots are assembled. I think
I’ve become much more vigilant, watching and expecting bad
things to happen when mixing it up like this. You can never
be too careful.
Then in August of this year, I had
another golf course incident, but this time with far less
serious consequences. This time it was my fault, and ended
with nothing but a laugh and a bit of an embarrassment. Two
acquaintances and I embarked on a Sunday morning
recreational flight which took us to two different golf
courses. That route in itself seemed odd, because out of
three pilots, we had no golfers in the group. The stops
just happened to be at airports with golf courses adjacent
to them. And they always welcomed pilots at their
It was decided to have lunch at Nanaimo,
B.C. where the course is on the east side of the airport. I
never knew this, but a remote taxiway leads to a small ramp
for aircraft parking on that side of the field. And a small
gate with a push-button lock allows access through the
security fence. So, it’s all set up specifically for pilots
who wish to play the course or simply go over for lunch.
It’s a very nice and convenient touch.
There is a short walk involved once
inside the golf course property, and it takes you across
what I discovered is the fourth fairway, then down a path,
through some trees and the equipment yard, ending up at the
After lunch, I ran into an old friend
there, and advised my flying partners that I’d be a few
minutes before catching up with them. Then, attempting to
find my way back to that gate in the trees, I found myself
wandering around in very unfamiliar territory. I was quite
literally, lost. A person without golf clubs, strolling
around a golf course attracts a certain amount of attention.
Several golfers seemed curious. When I requested
directions back to the airport, no one knew about the gate.
“You can’t get there from here” was the unanimous response.
As I continued looking for my way back to
the clubhouse, a Dash 8 flew by descending to land. But it
was on the wrong side of the golf course! Stopping to think
about it, I reasoned that the pilot could probably see the
runway better than I could. It became clear that I should
be going in the opposite direction. But even after spotting
a windsock, I could not find a way to get there.
By this time, about 10 to 15 minutes had
gone by. I wondered how long it would be before I saw my
ride departing and leaving me stranded on the golf course,
Finally I spotted a fellow in a cart
that had a sign on it stating he was a “player assistant”.
Quite relieved, I managed to flag him down and ask for some
directions to this mysterious gate into the airport. It was
only then that I learned the search should have been over on
the fourth fairway. And here I was on the first tee. He
laughed and wondered if I really was a pilot, and why I was
unable to navigate my way off a golf course. Who did I fly
for? He wouldn’t be booking with my airline if all the
pilots were like me.
My two companions were still waiting on
that isolated little ramp when I arrived. I was truly in
style, in a golf cart, with a driver. I doubt if they
believed me when I explained the tour was for VIP’s, and I
couldn’t pass it up.
All’s well that ends well. We had
enjoyed a great lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant. It
was inexpensive, the service was excellent, and the golfers
were friendly. I never did learn who decided to build that
taxiway and the gate, but it’s a win-win for everyone
involved; the airport, the golf course and the pilots. Who
would have thought that such a diverse bunch of folks would
put together an idea for sharing our passions. They are to
be commended. I have flown into other airports that promote
their association with golf courses, but they are quite few
and far between.
Now back to my point about the full
circle. Years ago, when it was golfers who got lost on a
runway, I almost ran them down with an airplane. This time
it was me who got lost on a golf course, and fortunately
wasn’t attacked, or even threatened with a golf club.