When it comes to partners, tennis and golf have little in common. For the sake of lively conversation your golfing buddy will put up with those double and triple bogeys. In tennis, your errant drives will lose you partners faster than a Haitian divorce.

We may dream of practicing with John McEnroe or Chris Evert-Lloyd, but we usually settle for someone who can hit three backhands in a row. Some of us stick with a "regular game" until it becomes as stimulating as a trip to the supermarket. To find new and, ideally, better partners, you should know something about playing the field.

For beginners, a good roundabout way of meeting players is to take a lesson. A pro can give you names and phone numbers of players of similar ability. Don't be afraid to take the initiative in calling. Most novices are as eager as you are to locate new partners.

If your complaint is that you never get to play the better players, think about joining your club or community ladder. You might meet some weaker players at first, but you'll soon be playing someone who can beat you. Consider joining the tennis team(s) at your club, community center or work. Volunteering to fill in when regular team members are absent provides an excellent opportunity to establish new contacts and renew old friendships.

Intermediate players can have fun playing in round-robin events. Often they are set up so that you switch partners (in doubles), and you will meet a host of wonderful people (and players, too).

Advanced players in search of stiffer competition should enter some of the local and regional tournaments. If possible, try to establish personla rapport with the competing players. Don't hesitate to ask for telephone numbers and arrange for future dates. This is a good way to get invited to a swanky club (although the offer is more likely to come from the guy you just drubbed).

Remember that tennis players of all levels have the same problem - finding (and keeping) a steady supply of good, compatible partners. By exploring the possibilities you can avoid the frustrations of stalking the clubhouse and hanging on fences.

Q - My regular partner is interested only in playing sets, but I would like to practice and work on specific strokes. Any suggestions?

A - Tell him that you would like to spend every other practice session doing drills and working on strokes. Remind him that insufficient match play or practice can be detrimental to your games.

Q - How should I go about finding partners who want to play in the early morning?

A - Head to the courts at the crack of dawn and so some scouting. If you belong to a club, your pro can help line you up with some early-morning regulars.

Q - My partner thinks the object of the game is to smash the ball as hard and as far out of my reach as possible. The result is that we never have a decent rally. Is there any way to change this patterns?

A - Suggest you play a game where you serve underhanded and all the balls must land between the service and base-lines, or you lose the point. This can be played using the whole court or just half. This should force your partner to keep the ball in play (and within reach).

Q - I've seen a player at the courts who looks about my ability. How should I go about asking him to play?

A - Approach him before or after he has played, never during a match. Your chances of arranging a date will be improved if he has also seen you play. If not, then give him a realistic assessment of your game and suggest a time and place.

Q - I am a reasonably good tennis player who has trouble finding games. I'm beginning to think that most tennis players are just snobs.

A - A few are, but most are just reluctant to play with an unknown quantity. It helps to have some kind of playing reputation and/or mutual friends who canvouch for your ability.