THE tiny Portuguese enclave of Macau is planning to become the venue for a major golfing event on the professional Asian Tour. ''We're reaching for the highest,'' said Rene Verhulst, general manager of the Macau Golf and Country Club, the first golfing facility in the territory. A private membership club, its opening marks the culmination of 10 years' planning. Dr Stanley Ho, group executive chairman of joint-owners Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, said: ''Golf is the fastest-growing participant sport in the world and Macau, as a tourist centre, could not afford to ignore that fact. We believe we have given Macau one of the best facilities of its kind in Asia.'' The club on Coloane Island opened for play in January and although Verhulst acknowledges that the tight 18-hole layout will take several years to mature, he is confident it can become the site for numerous top-level tournaments. ''We have outstanding facilities and a beautiful course with some of the most picturesque views you will see anywhere,'' he said, referring to the 6,325-yard, par-71 layout carved out of mountains above Hac Sa Bay. In addition to the possibility of the club becoming a permanent stop on the Asian Tour, Verhulst hopes to launch a Macau Open amateur championship as well as a celebrity event to coincide with the Macau motor racing Grand Prix's traditional November date. ''Plans are already under way to hold a tournament involving some of the racing drivers who will be coming to Macau for this year's Grand Prix,'' said Verhulst. ''We also believe it is realistic to consider staging the first Macau Open amateur championship in 1994 with the Asian Tour possibly coming here in 1995.'' Verhulst said he believed the club could find a sponsor willing to back an Asian Tour event - minimum purse US$200,000. However, to become eligible the club must first gain membership of the region's ruling Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation. With no other golfing facilities available or being planned in the enclave, the formation of an independent Macau Golf Association is unlikely. But the problem could be offset if the Macau club is accepted as an associate member of the Golf Association ofHongkong, with whom discussions are taking place. The first major tournament to be held at the course, designed by Hiroshi Ikeda of the other main partners in the ownership consortium, the Aoki Corporation, is likely to be a Hongkong Professional Golfers' Association (HKPGA) event towards the end of thisyear. Joe Hardwick, chairman of the HKPGA, said: ''We are always interested in taking our tournaments to new venues.'' He would visit the course this month, he said, adding: ''If we can arrange sponsorship it would be great to hold one of the legs of our circuit there.'' Narrow fairways, a preponderance of out-of-bounds markers and numerous lengthy walks from greens to tees will combine to provide a stern Test, even taking into account that golf buggies are almost a necessity. American Barry Mueller, the course superintendent, said: ''The initial response we have had from the members has been encouraging. One of the main observations has been that the course is deceiving and plays optical illusions on the golfer in the sense that when you're playing your shot it actually looks further than it is, possibly because of the narrowness of the fairways.'' One area that the club will need to look into is the provision of a driving range. Due to space constraints the only place to hit balls at present is into a net. Following the departure of Lui Wai-yin, the job as club professional has gone to Englishman Keith Lawson who competed on the European Satellite Tour from 1986 to 1988. ''I think this club has tremendous potential,'' said Lawson, who has worked with the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Essex. Although the Macau club, which is managed by CCA International Ltd, has already recruited approximately 800 members, of which almost two-thirds are from Hongkong, it is keen to attract more to play on weekdays and some new midweek memberships are being made available at $200,000 for three years, with 70 per cent refundable. Although the value of memberships has already increased from $350,000 to more than $750,000, Dr Ho said the idea of making money was not his main reason for his decision to invest a reported $600 million. ''We do not expect to recoup our investment until well past 1999 when the sovereignty of Macau changes.''