A nine iron in every garage and a putting green in every yard -- that's the future of golf in Howard County, according to a new report on the need for a public course.

The report by Golf Resource Associates, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, found that the estimated 10,600 golfers here have created the need for three 18-hole regulation-length public golf courses in Howard, which now is served by only two private courses. By 1992, it said, the county will have enough duffers and scratch players to fill five new public courses.

Because of this unmet demand, government officials should begin planning for "the immediate development of a county-owned public golf facility" and consider either doubling the capacity of that course or building a second one in the near future, the report recommends.

"The county's typical resident is of an age, has a household income level, has attained a level of education, and is employed in an occupation which would indicate a tendency to participate in golf at a rate which is substantially greater than the average Maryland resident," it said.

The county Department of Parks and Recreation commissioned the $50,000 study. The part released this week discusses only the existing market. A more detailed look at costs and possible locations is expected to be completed by the end of February.

William H. Mitchell, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said he was "somewhat surprised" by the report's findings, even though he has been fielding requests for a new public golf course since he came to Howard 11 years ago.

"I knew there was a demand there, but I didn't know it was that great," he said.

Mitchell said he did not want to comment on what impact the report might have on next year's budget until the public has the chance to comment on it at a Dec. 16 public hearing.

Eugene Weiss, administrative assistant to County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, said Bobo expected to receive a recommendation to move forward on a specific proposal next year, but that she would have to weigh that request against the need for new schools, roads, a proposed expansion of the county jail and other capital projects.

Mitchell estimated that an 18-hole public course would probably cost $4.5 million to $5 million, depending on its location and design. The cost of acquiring the land would be eligible for state money under Program Open Space, Mitchell said, while planning and development costs would have to come from local coffers through the sale of bonds.

The absence of a public golf course in Howard County has been a source of irritation for the sport's aficionados, who say they have been forced to pay the high membership costs of a private golf course or endure long waits at public courses in neighboring counties.

"The game is tough enough, never mind having to wait 20-30 minutes for each hole and taking six hours to get through one round," said David Veneri, a player who holds memberships at the county's two private courses, Hobbitt's Glen and Turf Valley.

Allview Golf Course, which was the county's only public golf course, closed in 1985 to make way for a housing development.

At that time, the Rouse Co., which owned the Allview site at Rtes. 108 and 29, gave 162 acres to the Columbia Association, the nonprofit corporation charged with providing recreational and social services for the planned community, in exchange for an agreement that the association develop a golf course. The Columbia Council had not yet decided whether the new course would be public or private.

James Meisel, director of operations for the Columbia Association, said a consultant's report completed two years ago on Columbia's future recreational needs said that by 1992, the county would be able to use 21 additional holes for golf, a number far less than the 90 holes recommended in the latest report.

Last week, the Columbia Association's plans were halted when the latest cost estimates for the Allview Course were found to exceed a limit contained in its land-transfer agreement with the Rouse Co. Estimates put the cost of the course, which includes working around wetlands and other environmental concerns plus the construction of a storage building and the acquisition of golf carts, at $4.4 million to be raised with bonds paying 11.5 percent interest. However, the agreement said that the association would pay no more than $3.5 million at 14 percent interest.

Pamela Mack, public relations officer for the Columbia Association, said the Columbia Council has written a letter to Rouse officials informing them that the association is not willing to exceed the limit and would need some sort of financial help to continue the project.

Columbia Council members have also thought of approaching the county to discuss having the county develop the Allview site and lease the facility to the Columbia Association. Mitchell said that a formal request has yet to be made, but expressed skepticism that a mutually satisfactory deal could be worked out.