Out in southern Frederick County, where the fields give way to one another with only an occasional cluster of homes to break their rhythm, there sits an 18-hole golf course where champions were supposed to play.

Nearby, a man-made lake zig zags for four miles through the hills. Near it there is a recreation center complete with a sauna, and a clubhouse complete with a bar. Together, these things were to be the center-places of Lake Linganore, a massive development designed to give new meaning to the word leisure.

Lavish, luxurious, and almost alone these amenities are monuments to the scope of developer J. William Brosius' vision, and to the extent that the reality fell short.

In 1970, that vision included thousands of happy people who would buy up the 4,800 Linganore lots and enjoy all of this luxury.

Seven years later, about 35 homes have been build there on the 1,736 lots that were sold during the development's marketing heyday.

The stopping point came in 1974, when the buying slacked off and then disappeared. Lacking the underpinning of sales, the delicate financial pyramid supporting Lake Linganore began to collapse. The downturn on Wall Street, the upturn in interest rates and the gasoline crisis didn't help.

Since then, like so many of the developments caught in the real estate bust of 1974, the project has lain fallow with most of its 4,200 acres tied up in legal disputes.

Construction on some of the lots is prevented by a lack of utilities. Other property owners have an even bigger problem - they may not own the land they have paid for. There is a real possibility that to obtain clear title to their lots, they may have to pay part of the price all over again.

"That's very sad, but very true," said an attorney for the investment trust and lent Lake Linganore's developers about $6 million six years ago. Now this trust, First Mortgage Investors of Boston and Miami, has taken possession of many of the lot owners' deeds as collateral for its own loans to Linganore.

The deeds were not the only collateral. On Thursday, after more than two years of delay, FMI foreclosed its mortgage on about half of Linganore's 4,200 acres. In an auction that followed, FMI picked up that 2,100 acres for $3.2 million.

Long before that FMI had sued the developers, J. William and Louis Brosius, their wives, and the Linganore Corp. that they run, for $11 million. In the wake of the foreclosure sale, FMI attorney Karl Feissner said that the figure demanded in the suit would now be revised down to $8.5 million.

The series of loans at the heart of that debt was made by FMI in 1971, when real estate developments and the trusts financing them were the darlings of the investment world.

But that time is long past. For the last two years, the Linganore Corp. has been in bankruptcy proceedings under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act, trying to reorganize and improve its financial condition before bankruptcy officials allowed the corporation's creditors to pursue it again.

The Lake Linganore developer still believes in his project.

"I don't think this idea was too big," J. William Brosius said recently. "I think we have shown a way of developing a primary and secondary home community with much less money than other projects have taken. I don't think it's proved that point yet, but it will," he added.

The attorney for First Mortgage Investors smiled at the thought of Brosius' optimism. "I've never yet met a developer who didn't feel he could bring it off," said Peter Barnes.

Yet Lake Linganore didn't seem like such an outlandish dream in the late 1960s, when second-home fever and a yen for the rustic had overtaken the buying public. People had a little more spare cash than before, and a little more spare time. That well-advertised development near New Market seemed like a good place to spend both.

So the lots around the brand-new lakes and the older woods sold fast, sometimes as fast as dozen a day, their prices ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. The Linganore Corp. provided financing for those who wanted it.

Homes started going up. A few families moved in, some of them willing to commute the hour and a quarter to Washington or the hour to Baltimore. In 1970, J. William Brosius said, "We are confident that some of our 750 lot purchasers will begin construction . . . next year."

Environmental awards poured into the development. Its ads were constantly on the radio. Brosius, confidently predicted that PGA tournaments would be held on the golf course. It looked as if the Linganore juggernaut would stop only when all 4,8000 lots were sold.

Now, despite the 16 miles of piping underground, some lots have neither sewer nor water hookups, making building impossible.

For some luckier owners, building a home on a distant lot is still possible - if they put up the money to run an electric line from as much as a quarter of a mile away, at a cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

And the Linganore project's work force, once 253 strong, has dwindled down to 14 people. Bits of the road that encircles the development are washing away, with no money or men left to repair them.

In the face of all of this, Bill Brosius retains his optimism, although his words sometimes sound forced or strained. "What we're trying to do is solve these problems . . . We want to do the best possible job here. We'll succeed in overcoming the problems."

He pauses for a minute and looks out the clubhouse window at the golf course. "This was the only thing in the project built on schedule - there were no government approvals needed.

"Everything else was involved the tortuous requirements of going through the approvals process . . . So a lot of things couldn't come in on schedule," Brosius added.

Telephone and electricity lines are even sparser than sewer lines, but some lot owners who can afford it have put these in themselves, in effect lending Linganore Corp. the price of installation.

Brosius intends to clear these things up. "It's Linganore's responsibility to put in these sewers and roads, and we intend to do it - unless we're wiped out."

Sitting next to him, his associate John W. Aitken added, "The worst feeling in the world is to promise something and not deliver it."

Herbert I. Johnson feels it's worse to be on the other end of these failures. In 1969, when he was still working as a mail carrier, Johnson got some Linganore dinner and ended up buying a lakeview lot for $5,400.

"Our biggest mistake was that we put down $1,800 and financed the other $3,600 with them," Johnson said, as he spread the contents of a file of glossy Linganore literature across the coffee table of his Montgomery Village apartment.

"That's how our troubles developed. We could have bought it in cash. But I was 55 at the time; retirement was 10 years away. So we thought of it as a long-range thing, possibly for our retirement, or as an investment. We had done well in land investment before. We had little lots in New Hampshire and Florida."

Johnson and his wife Aura had been to Linganore several times; they liked what they saw. "It looked like a nice place. We were impressed," he said.

The Johnsons made their payments regularly, and by the early part of 1974 they were all paid up.

The Johnsons have never received their deeds. "We cannot recover the deed of trust and the deed," Johnson says. The reason is that their deed, along with hundreds of others, was given to FMI as collateral for one of the FMI loans to Linganore.

"We were taken in by the developers," Johnson said, his mild tone belying his anger. "I would like to know when our deed was transferred to FMI. If it was after we paid in full, then there was real deception on the part of the developers.

Brosius insists there was no deception. "After we got in trouble with FMI and got in default, FMI refused to release some deeds. But the lot holders are in no jeopardy.

FMI holds scores of deeds like Johnson's. The deeds and the accompanying notes were given to the trust as collateral for a so-called "warehouse" loan. The idea was that Linganore would collect the payments on the mortgages and pass them along to FMI.

After a time, FMI attorneys claim, Linganore stopped passing the payments along, and instead used the money for capital expenses such as roads and sewers. "We know we haven't been paid," attorney Feiasner said last week.

"Those who made their payments will keep their lands. All it takes to get the title cleared is hiring an attorney. It takes less than $100 and three months to do it," Brosius said. "In a lot of cases, they were released."

Bill Russell, a real estate agent who has been living at Linganore from the beginning, admitted that the development has fallen short of many people's expectations. His wife believes there are advantages to being one of the few people out there - less traffic on the hiking trails, fewer bodies in the pool.

What's more, they say everything will eventually work out. "We still have Linganore fever," Russell said. "It's a super place to live . . .