THERE IS A CERTAIN KIND OF person who is in constant pursuit of perfection and, like a cat chasing its tail, is the inevitable victim of frustration. That person is a golfer, a strange creature who is happiest driving himself crazy on a golf course and unhappiest when he can't continue to drive himself crazy.

It's not clear whether playing more golf is the cure or just another symptom for these unfortunate souls, but winter's forced abstinence undoubtedly has been the worst of times for golfers. Now a place called Golf Par-Tee in the Georgetown Court mall on Prospect Street NW has changed all that. It's a sort of life-size video game using real clubs and balls that golf-hungry grown-ups can play year-round.

The place is run by a former jazz promoter/PR man/nightclub owner named Bob Crockett. He got out of the music business when all the jazz that went with it drove his blood pressure to the danger zone. He got into golf, he says, when an art gallery failed and the Georgetown Court management was "looking for something for an upscale clientele and asked me to run it." So Crockett added /golf entrepreneur/ to his re'sume'.

The machinery was invented by Optronics Ltd. of Salt Lake City, and here's how it works: The layouts of three of the best golf courses in the world -- Pebble Beach and Spy Glass in California and Club de Bonmont in Switzerland -- were digitized for the computer. The player takes his pick of courses, chooses his club and then drives the ball into a nylon screen. On the way, it passes between two cameras that measure the ball's velocity and direction; a third camera records the trajectory and if the ball is hooked or sliced. The computer analyzes the information and displays where the shot would land on the course.

If, for instance, there's water on the right of the picture on the screen, the golfer aims to the left side. The computer then tells how far the ball has been hit. At the same time, the picture on the screen changes to show the view from where the ball landed: from the fairway, the rough, the green or, sad to say, from the sand trap or water hazard. If a shot does go in the water, the computer drops the ball in the proper spot and adds a stroke. When the player finally hits the green, he putts out from a designated spot on the artificial-turf rug.

With just a little bit of imagination, any player can rewrite the Cinderella story with {YOUR NAME HERE} storming from behind to cop the U.S. Open title. The cost is usually between $15 and $20 per person per 18 holes; as many as 10 golfers can play together at one time.

Self-conscious players can even learn how to hit in front of a gallery. "Sometimes in the summer you'll have 30 people at the windows watching," says Crockett, "and they'll applaud like they're really watching a match."

Crockett himself is more comfortable with a rod and reel than with a driver, but since opening last May, he's begun to notice a similarity between the two sports. "The good golfers, the guys with the low handicaps, they all say the machine is extremely accurate," he says. "{The others} always hit it better when they're out on the golf course. They're like fishermen telling stories: 'I had this big one right up to the boat . . .' "