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Duffer's Paradise

Myrtle Beach, S.C.; April 17-18

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For the ritually abused Manhattan golf prole, Shangri-la is only 90 minutes away. In about the time it takes to get through the express line at Zabar's -- or drive up to Richter Park, the best "local" public course -- you can fly to Myrtle Beach and be having fun: cursing your slice, railing about your luck, or wrapping your disloyal putter around a tree trunk. Why Myrtle Beach? Direct flights are available out of La Guardia and Newark, the average temperature in February is 60 degrees, greens fees range from cheap to insanely cheap, the quality of courses ranges from good to Omigod!, and it has more great packages than Santa on Christmas Eve (nearly 500 lodgings and 100 courses). The Breakers is a convenient place to drop your clubs, but the area has wall-to-wall hotels and motels, so it pays to shop around. Likewise, recommending a favorite Myrtle Beach course is as pointless as arguing about your favorite Meryl Streep accent: They're all good, and several dozen are exceptionally good. One new course worth trying -- if you've got plenty of balls and the ability to carry 200 yards of water off the tee -- is True Blue, named for the dye produced on a nearby plantation. Other must-plays are Caledonia, Glen Dornoch, Legends (six courses), Pawleys Plantation, and Tidewater, but you could happily play at Myrtle Beach every day for a year and never take a divot at any of those. The only downside is that there are no signs of intelligent nightlife in Myrtle Beach, which is known as the redneck Riviera and considers spring break its major industry.

DETAILS Myrtle Beach info (800-845-4653; www.myrtlebeachlive.com); Caledonia (800-483-6800); Glen Dornoch (800-717-8784); Legends (800-552-2660); Pawleys Plantation (800-367-9959); the Breakers (800-952-4507); Tidewater (800-446-5363); True Blue (888-483-6801).


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