For goodness sake, do something

Learn to play golf or drive a steam train. Your holiday can offer the chance to gain new skills.

If the idea of lying on a beach with the latest Jackie Collins paperback, soaking up cancerous rays, and watching your stomach grow through over-indulgence just doesn't appeal anymore, you are not alone. The truly up-to-date are using their summer holidays this year to learn a new skill

The fanfare of the Wimbledon tennis championships has again encouraged thousands of Tim Henman wannabees to take to their local courts, and tennis coaches across the country have never been busier. Dedicated tennis enthusiasts can now buy packaged residential tennis training courses linked to David Lloyd Tennis Centres or at specialist resorts such as Windmill Hill Place in Sussex.

In the United States, tennis ranches are big business, with resorts such as the Harry Hopman Tennis Academy at Saddlebrook, near Tampa, Florida, offering 45 courts in pristine condition, with summer camps and tennis improvement packages to suit every level of player. Eton school sends a group of its best tennis players here for instruction every year during the Easter holidays.

Hyatt Hotels has comprehensive tennis packages at its resorts in La Manga, Spain, the Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, and at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Palm Springs, California.

From a snap survey of tour operators and hoteliers it would seem that increasingly people are demanding activity holidays, ranging from the conventional - such as learning to ride a horse, windsurfing, and diving - to the more exotic, such as hot-air ballooning, piloting a light aircraft and even driving a steam train in Cornwall.

You can learn to surf on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, try hang gliding in the Alps, go bungee jumping over Victoria Falls, and white-water rafting in Alaska. You can even dig out your old leathers and become a Hell's Angel by renting a Harley Davidson motorcycle and "cruising" along the Florida Keys or the volcanic crater rims of Hawaii.

The unprecedented hype surrounding golf superstar Tiger Woods, coupled with a recent Nike advertising campaign featuring children of all nationalities wanting to emulate him, has prompted Hyatt Hotels to introduce free golf for kids aged from 8 to 17 when playing with a parent at its 14 top resort courses throughout America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.

Even Disney has decided that its elaborate theme parks no longer provide sufficient attractions to fully satisfy the tourists of the new millennium. The newly opened Disney Institute in Orlando teaches up to 80 different skills, sports, and hobbies. Visitors can learn the basics of golf or tennis in the morning and apply themselves to computer studies or sculpting in the afternoons.

Nick Faldo has teamed up with the Marriott organisation and launched a golf teaching institute built around a new timeshare resort in Orlando which opens this month, and Arnold Palmer and David Leadbetter also operate full-scale teaching academies in Florida.

For the more adventurous, Portsmouth-based Sunsail Holidays can provide a three-day sailing course either on the Solent or the Clyde, which, it is claimed, can make you fully equipped to sail your own 35-foot yacht around the Ionian Sea in an independently monitored flotilla this summer. Demand from hardy Brits for this type of holiday has grown so rapidly in recent years that Sunsail has expanded its initial operations from beach and sailing clubs in Greece and Turkey and now has vessels based throughout the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Thailand, Australia and Tonga.

Cattle ranching is proving a big draw among tourists wanting to re-create their childhood cowboy fantasies in America's Wild West. London-based Ranch America arranges ranching holidays in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Montana, and has also introduced escorted horseback camping trails from Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks, spending a week under canvas among the grizzly bears.

FACT FILE

Contacts

Crystal Holidays (0181 390 8513) has tennis packages in conjunction with David Lloyd centres and UK tennis resorts plus short breaks learning to sail, fly, and drive a steam train.

Sunsail (01705 222222) has sailing flotillas, boat charters, and instruction packages.

Hyatt Hotels (0345 581666) has tennis packages at La Manga in Spain and free golf for children at many of its luxury resorts in the USA, with Harley Davidson motorcycles for hire at selected US resort hotels.

Ranch America (0181 868 2910) has ranching holidays, white-water rafting, and horseback camping trails in the Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon national parks.

The Harry Hopman Tennis Academy at Saddlebrook, near Tampa, Florida, (001 813 973 1111) has residential tennis clinics of any duration for players of all levels.

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