Rather than bury nearly 100,000 tons of dead leaves and grass clippings along with the other garbage at the Salt Lake City and County Landfill each year, officials are formulating a plan to turn yard waste into golf courses.

Salt Lake County officials said Monday they plan to start a gigantic compost pile in what now is a gravel pit near 6000 South and 2300 East, near what is known as the Old Mill. The idea is to combine the clippings and leaves with dirt to make a rich top soil for a golf course planned for the area.Daniel Bauer, the county's director of solid waste, said he hopes the landfill will begin shipping the dead leaves from Salt Lake City to the compost pile next month. For years, the city has encouraged its residents to bag leaves separately from other garbage before city crews transport the refuse to the landfill.

"There are a couple of advantages (to having a compost pile)," Bauer said. "We're trying to reduce waste at the landfill so we can increase the life of the landfill." The other advantage is that the county will save money when it comes time to put top soil on the golf course.

Bauer said the county likely will encourage residents near the pit to voluntarily drop grass clippings and leaves at the site. The county is not contemplating a system similar to Salt Lake City's leaf collection.

If the compost pile grows quickly, the county may begin shipping it to a golf course site in Riverton. The county does not plan to build the Old Mill course until it first builds one in Riverton and one in the Dimple Dell park, said David Marshall, administrative assistant to County Commissioner Tom Shimizu.

Of the 650,000 tons of garbage dropped in the landfill each year, approximately 15 percent, or 97,500 tons, is what the county calls yard waste - grass clippings, leaves and tree trimmings, Bauer said.

He said the county does not yet know how much it will save by turning the clippings into top soil. The county still needs to pass some zoning changes before the project can begin.

Bauer said he hopes some of the city's leaves can be diverted to the pit near the Old Mill this year, with a full-scale effort beginning next year.

The pit currently is being used to provide gravel for highway projects. It will be used for that purpose until 1993.