ONE of the by-products of Hong Kong's mini golf boom has been a noticeable increase in the number of specialist golfing shops across the territory. The number of people taking up the game is rising at an estimated rate of 20 per cent a year, while public golfing facilities are gradually coming on line, such as the Tuen Mun Golf Centre and the 36 holes at Kau Sai Chau which are scheduled to be ready by December. This has resulted in the size of the local market growing rapidly in recent years and is a trend that is likely to continue. According to the Hong Kong Golf Association, the territory currently has an unofficial golfing population of about 20,000 of whom half are members of Royal Hong Kong, Discovery Bay, Clearwater Bay and Shek O. The association says it aims to treble that number by the end of the century by prompting the planning of several additional golf courses and driving ranges - all of which is great news for the territory's golf shops. One such outlet that is making its mark in Hong Kong is Golf House, part of the Royal Sporting House (RSH) Group. With stores throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, the group is firmly established as having one of the region's biggest chains of golf shops. It was in October 1993 that Golf House entered the Hong Kong market, unveiling a well-stocked shop in Times Square in Causeway Bay. Earlier this month, a second Hong Kong shop was opened in Pacific Place. Michael Ho, Hong Kong-based marketing assistant for the RSH Group, said the company was pleased with how the Times Square shop was doing and was bullish about the future. He said Hong Kong sales had been better than in some other neighbouring countries because the prices here were lower. He said as more outlets opened, the stiffer the competition became and the wider the selection of golf products available in the territory. 'The industry is becoming quite cut-throat,' Mr Ho said, referring to the intense nature of the business with stores trying to undercut one another. 'There seems to be a lot of price-cutting going on.' Nevertheless, with the surge in popularity in the Royal and Ancient sport, the outlook was bright, Mr Ho said. 'Because there are so many new golf courses opening up, particularly in southern China, we are confident the market will continue to grow,' he said. Mr Ho said the customers who passed through the Golf House in Times Square were evenly split between tourists and Hong Kong residents and he believed it would be a similar tale at Pacific Place. He said the store's best-selling brands were Spalding, Mizuno and, not surprisingly, Callaway. Contrary to popular belief, golf does not necessarily have to be an outlandishly expensive sport for beginners. At the lower end of the market, for example, Spalding is the most popular brand at Golf House with complete sets on offer for as little as $2,000 - less than the cost of one Callaway Big Bertha wood. Mr Ho said the Mizuno range catered mainly for the Japanese and South Korean market with full sets available at between $4,000 and $5,000. Women's sets cost as little as $3,000. And what of Callaway? Well, yes, no surprise again. At the top end of the Hong Kong market the brand remains the most favoured. Golf clubs are not the only products at Golf House. Mr Ho said: 'To have a good range of golfing accessories is important for any golf shop. Shoes, gloves, tees and golf balls are all readily available.'