HONGKONG environmental groups, who joined forces to oppose the Shalotung golf course development, will send a representative to an anti-golf conference in Malaysia later this month. Friends of the Earth and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have agreed to sponsor Mr Darrell Carlin, a Hongkong University master's student who is doing a thesis on the economic and environment costs of golf course developments. Enthusiasm for golfing has mushroomed in the territory in the past year, with two public courses proposed and rumours of several private clubs being planned. Because of a shortage of land, the proposed courses often impinge on ecologically-sensitive areas or country parks in order to accommodate all facilities. The WWF's conservation officer, Mr Billy Hau Chi-hang, said they were not anti-golf as such and had asked Mr Carlin only to gather information on the effects of golf courses elsewhere in the region, rather than carry a platform to the meeting. ''We're not opposed to golf courses provided they are managed in an appropriate way and constructed on an appropriate site,'' he said. The groups successfully challenged the country park aspect of the Shalotung project, which has been revised to cover only private and Crown land. The Government is awaiting an environmental impact report from the developers, due shortly, before deciding whether to allow the project to go ahead. Mr Carlin said courses like Shalotung inevitably required housing or resort development to make them economically viable, which added to the load on the environment. They also used pesticides which could end up in nearby streams, such as the ones near Shalotung that run into Plover Cove reservoir. Hongkong water was not tested for pesticide residue, he said. Mr Carlin said the cost benefits of golf courses, from land sales and taxes, had to be balanced against such possible extra expenses as the further treatment of the water. He added environment regulations for golf courses were weaker in Asia than the United States, making it less costly to build them here and leading to a golf course boom in the region. The Conference on Resort and Golf Course Development in the Asia Pacific Region will run from April 24 to 29 and its last day will be declared World No Golf Day. It is jointly organised by Japan's Global Network for Anti-Golf Course Action, Thailand's Asian Tourism Action Network and Malaysia's Friends of the Earth.