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Trinidad's rhythmic golf

The limbo, that snaky dance of slave escape origin, was born here. So were calypso singing and steel bands, those incredibly soft percussive orchestras made up solely of oil drums.

Weekly folkloric evenings at the Trinidad Hilton show off all three musical events. But you don't have to wait for these special occasions. Rhythm is found throughout Trinidad.

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This musical way of moving is especially evident at St. Andrews, the best of Trinidad's four golf courses. Whether following a group or swinging along in time with your caddy, you almost feel you're dancing your game.

It's a paradox, for on the face of it the St. Andrews Golf Club is very conservative. Named for golf's mother course, St. Andrews in Scotland, it dates to 1870. Originally located on Queen's Park Savannah (now a gigantic people's park at the foot of the hill the Hilton is on), the club has been moved several times since, most recently to Moka, a former orange plantation.

Although a private club, St. Andrews welcomes visitors. If the telephones are working, call before coming to make sure no club event is scheduled. If the phones are out of order (as usual), just appear -- but be sure to introduce yourself to the club secretary on arrival. Those formalities over, go and enjoy this gently rolling valley, boxed in all around by mountains planted with fields of chives and orchards of cocoa and coffee trees.

It's a short course -- ten par 4s, four par 5s, four par 3s. You'll find you can easily "dance around it" in 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Not to be missed is a visit to Trinidad's tiny sister island, Tobago. Only one golf course there, but it's one of the best in the entire Caribbean. Five par 5s, five par 3s, eight par 4s. Hurricane Flora in 1963 saw to its creation.

The result is a hilly, winding place with superwide fairways, large greens, sandy bunkers resembling giant footsteps, hundreds of palms (still), and frequent views of the sea. Although a private club, it, too, welcomes travelers. Guests staying at the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel next door get an enormous break on green fees -- $10, vs. the $40 guests staying elsewhere must pay.

Tobago is the legendary island of Robinson Crusoe. If you reread the story, you'll find his first impressions were less than idyllic. "A desolate place . . . a horrid . . . island . . . dismal . . . unfortunate . . . island of despair." So he described it in early chapters. And then he hiked over to the leeward side, where the golf club is, to discover it "fruitful . . . delicious . . . pleasant . . . tempting."

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New this year is a seven-day golf package put together by Golf Intercontinental of New York City. With scheduled departures from mid-April through June and September through December, the package offers play at both St. Andrews and the Tobago club, with accommodations at Mount Irvine and at the Trinidad Hilton. Cost is $380 plus air fare, per person double; $100 more for singles.

For particulars call (212) 758-0500.


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