Unless Salt Lake County commissioners are prepared to consign the county's three golf courses to operating in the red this year, it appears everyone will be paying more for a round of golf at county courses by the time temperatures are warm enough to allow hackers back on the links.

The county's Parks and Recrea-tion Board has proposed higher greens fees and cart rentals this year that will have golfers paying $1-$3 more than last year to play nine holes and $2-$5 more for 18 holes at county courses.The proposed price boost for an annual adult golf pass allowing unlimited weekday play at county courses is $100 to $450, while the board proposes doubling the price of senior citizen and junior annual passes to $350.

County officials are expecting to take plenty of criticism from the public on the fee increase proposals, and golfers already have started to complain. The complaints are expected to increase both in intensity and number before commissioners vote on whether to adopt the proposals, perhaps as early as next week.

"We watched Salt Lake City's recent public hearings on their golf fee increases pretty closely, so we knew how the public would react to this," said Glen Lu, director of the county's Parks and Recreation Division.

The city recently raised the price of an annual pass at its six courses from $300 to $500. Senior and junior passes went from $175 to $400.

The board had little choice but to recommend the fee increases, Lu said. If fees are not raised, the county courses are projected to run up a $340,000 deficit by the end of the year. The proposed fee boosts are expected to raise an additional $400,000.

The county's golf courses are operated as an enterprise fund - meaning they must pay their operations, maintenance and capital-improvements costs from their own revenues, with no subsidy from county general funds.

Delaying capital improvements scheduled for this year - including $300,000 in design work for two new golf courses - to keep fees at current levels would only put off the inevitable, Lu said. County courses already need an estimated $2.1 million worth of capital improvements over the next five years.

It costs the county $4.69 per nine-hole round to operate and maintain its three, and an average of 317,000 nine-holes rounds were played annually between 1986 and 1988 at the Meadow Brook, Mick Riley and Mountain View courses.

A review of course records for 1988 shows each of 450 county annual golf pass holders played an average of 187 nine-hole rounds last year. For the holder of a senior citizen annual pass, that averaged a cost of less than $1 per round. For holders of regular adult passes, the cost averaged less than $2 per round last year, Lu said.