GOLF is set to boom in Hongkong and may even enjoy the same fanatical following as it does in Japan, according to Joe Hardwick, one of the best-known and most respected professional golfers in the territory. Hardwick has been the pro at the Royal Hongkong Golf Club at Fanling for the past 28 years and has played a major part in the development of the game in the territory. But it is only now that he feels that golf can really begin to expand beyond the elite private golf clubs and become popular with the general public. The key to the problem, said Hardwick, was the golfing facilities for people other than the wealthy to enjoy the game. With the first public golf course likely to be opened by next summer, the game is set to become popular with not only the few who can afford the exorbitant fees charged by private golf club. He said: ''At the moment, you can go and play at the four private clubs but you have to pay a lot of money.'' The high cost of land in the territory has prevented the building of a low-fee public golf course until now and the Golf Association of Hongkong has been lobbying for Government support for many years. However, many golf enthusiasts feel the delay has damaged the sport in Hongkong. According to Hardwick, the standard of golf in the territory has fallen behind that of many of Hongkong's neighbours. The absence of golfing facilities for the public has also been blamed for the lack of young players coming into the game. Mr Alistair Polson, general manager of the Golf Association of Hongkong, is confident that a another public golf course can be built on the northern part of Kau Sai Chau in Sai Kung within two to three years, besides the one planned for Tuen Mun. He said that the challenge now was to bring the young people into the game to take advantage of the new courses. The Golf Association along, with the Royal Hongkong Jockey Club and the Regional Services Department, had set in motion training programmes for young people, under the banner of The Hongkong Junior Development Golf Fund, to generate interest in the sport. Hardwick said: ''We are now sowing the seeds so, that by the time these public courses are open, these children will know all there is to know about playing the game''. A small group of young people are learning the skills of the game at the Royal Hongkong Golf Club driving range and a further eight are receiving tuition at the South China Athletic Association's grounds in Happy Valley. The most ambitious programme is to begin at the Golf Centre at the Jockey Club's Sha Tin racetrack this summer. Up to 120 young people will try golf for the first time at the Golf Centre driving range and putting green and the scheme is likely to be followed by golf camps or golfing days for the young people.