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A Swing and a Miss

Golf isn't always a winning group activity. Croquet, anyone?
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So much business has been conducted over a round of golf that it's almost cliche. But not everyone likes to swing a five-iron, nor does everyone know how to play. So if your colleagues or customers can't tell a birdie from a bogey (or don't want to), but they're game to try something new, consider one of these destinations.

The Equinox Resort & Spa in Manchester Village, Vt. (802-362-4700, equinox.rockresorts.com), and The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. (800-624-6070, www.greenbrier.com), are two luxury adventure resorts that offer a slate of instructional outdoor activities that will be new to almost everyone, thus leveling the playing field. At their off-road driving schools you can slog through rivers in a Hummer H2 or Land Rover Discovery. Or cast away at fly-fishing schools, aim for the bull's-eye during archery, or take down a variety of clay targets on the trap, skeet, and sporting clay ranges. If you've got the stamina left, there's whitewater rafting in the summer or snowshoeing in the winter.

Bona fide cowboys and tenderfoot city slickers might like the Old West appeal of a dude ranch, where guides and horses cater to all abilities and entertainment ranges from chuck wagon dinners to spa treatments. The Home Ranch in Clark, Colo., just celebrated its 25th birthday, during which time everyone from greenhorns to rodeo and Olympic champions visited for the acclaimed cuisine, private cabins, and horseback options such as trail rides, cattle herding, and advanced equestrian classes (970-879-1780, www.homeranch.com). Another first-class outfit is Triple Creek Ranch (406-821-4600, www.triplecreekranch.com) in Darby, Mont.

White linen and champagne socials keep with the tradition of the genteel sport of croquet at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. One of the largest croquet clubs in the country, PGA National features five full-size tournament-quality courts, an instructional area, and professionals on staff for private lessons or group clinics (800-633-9150; www.pgaresort.com).

Hotel Healdsburg in Healdsburg, Calif., can arrange guided tours of vineyards and private wine tastings at one of more than 60 wineries in the area or more physical pursuits like canoeing in the Russian River or hot air ballooning. End the day at famed restaurateur Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen (800-889-7188, www.hotelhealdsburg.com).

Pack your mats. Yoga enthusiasts can perform sun salutations on the beach at Bacara Resort & Spa, located 10 minutes from the Santa Barbara airport. The luxury Spanish colonial resort, which boasts a 42,000-square-foot spa and a 1,000-acre ranch for hiking, offers yoga and meditation classes at all levels. Private instruction for your group is available (805-968-0100, www.bacararesort.com).

Finally, if you can't resist the call of the green, at least make a golf outing fun for everyone. Pine Creek Miniature Golf in West Amwell, N.J., features two 18-hole courses on 28 lush acres (the complex was once a nursery). The challenging holes are designed with inclines and hazards such as running streams and stones--not a tacky plastic windmill in sight. Groups from companies such as Merrill Lynch, Bristol Myers-Squibb, and Lucent Technologies have all putted at this country-club-like complex (609-466-3803, www.pinecreekgolf.com). If you're visiting from out of town, hang your beret at the Inn at Lambertville Station nearby (800-524-1091).

Last updated: May 1, 2004




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