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Dominican Republic: tough golf, but a benign climate

With everyone's greens fee comes a caddy at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. One hundred and fifty boys, aged 14 to 18, have steady employment caddying here.

For tourists this means a pleasant contact with a young islander for three to four hours. For the boys there are two bonuses: everyday practice in English and other languages, and daily exposure to golf - a sport virtually unknown on this Caribbean island until eight years ago.

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Casa de Campo - literally ''House in the Country'' - was developed by the Gulf & Western people out of what was bleak grazing land for cattle. Although this southeast coast is by nature the least beautiful side of the island, it's a joy to behold now. Clusters of gleaming white bungalows topped by red roofs dot a gently rolling soft green landscape with poinsettia, bougainvillea, and fluttering butterflies living together in cheerful harmony. The effect is of a charming hillside village, inviting for strolling through both day and night.

No TV, no radio, no newspapers, although a wire service summary of the more vital world happenings is dutifully posted on the daily activities board.

No tipping (except for the caddies). Free little buses and quaint horse-drawn wagons get you to the beach, the tennis courts, the town, the polo grounds.

Only the golf is in walking distance of everybody. And what golf! Take your choice of the ''Teeth of the Dog'' or the not-quite-so-tough ''Links. They're rare courses in today's resort world, for you can walk them if you like. Electric carts are available, but not required. Nor are they necessary, for (except in July and August) this is a surprisingly benign (not hot) climate.

On foot is the best way to appreciate the Dog's hillocks, hollows, and its seven holes dramatically cut into the jagged seacoast. Playful breezes from the Caribbean Sea are a constant factor; it's not unusual for 1,000 balls to be lost every week. Par is 72 with ratings 72 for women, 70.5 for men, 72.5 off the championship tees. Yardage 5,571-6,787.

On the Links course all tees are built on raised land. Climbing to them gives you an ''on stage'' feeling. You'll find plenty of stone and log walls to avoid, referred to on the scorecards as ''immovable obstructions.'' There are also lots of grass holes, pot bunkers, and undulating traps of pink coral sand. A par 71, its ratings are the same as the Dog but yardage much less: 4,521-6,327.

The vitals: Casa de Campo, PO Box 140, La Romana, Dominican Republic. Toll-free phone 800-223-6620. Two courses: greens fees $14, carts (not obligatory) $14. Caddies (required to take) expect $4 if you're riding, $7 if you walk. From April 16 through mid-December, room rates are $50-65 single, $60- 75 double. Seven-day golf packages $227 per person double, $341 single. These are 50 percent cuts over winter season rates.

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