You're sitting in your tower block flat in downtown Tirana - which you share with 23 political dissidents under house arrest - deciding the future path of your career. Leafing through a mountain of college prospecti - listing everything from propaganda studies to propaganda studies - you suddenly hit on the idea of a life in greenkeeping. The only problem is there are no golf courses in Albania.

After a few phone calls, a moonlight flit across the Greek border under a hail of machine-gun fire and a 36-day cross-continental trek in your 1961 Trabant, you arrive at Europe's premier greenkeeping college - in Cupar.

The above scenario may sound incredible but it is loosely based on fact. For Elmwood College, in the heart of Fife, is set to become a global magnet for trainee greenkeepers.

On Saturday it will become Britain's first education establishment with its own 18-hole, working golf course. The unique facility will provide greenkeeping courses for more than 400 students from across the world. It already has students signed up from the Iceland, Germany, the US, South Africa and, yes, even Albania. Next year it will enroll its first student from the Peoples' Republic of China which has 16 golf courses but little in-country training for staff.

As well as providing a publicly-used canvass for greenkeeping students, Elmwood also has areas set aside for wild flowers and tree planting for people studying conservation and the environment, and a clubhouse with a working setting for catering students.

Principal Mr Norval Black says: ''We are on the doorstep of the Old Course at St Andrews which, in marketing terms, money can't buy. There is no other 18-hole golf course for training in Britain and it is the biggest greenkeeping college in Europe. We are already talking to a similar college in the US about a work experience partnership.''

Head of the greenkeeping section is Carol Borthwick, 36, a five handicapper from Glasgow. Three out of four students who graduate from her courses will move straight into employment. She said: ''Nowadays greenkeeping involves a lot more than just cutting grass, looking after bunkers, and tending the greens.

''All the courses involve theory and practical sessions. Meteorology, equipment maintenance, man management, working with committees; the modern day greenkeeper has to be qualified in a wide range of skills.

''It's a continual learning process. Improvements as regards equipment and methods are occurring all the time. The role of the greenkeeper has also changed. Many are becoming course managers with their brief extending beyond the day-to-day tending of the course.''

Greenkeeping was introduced into the curriculum of the agricultural college in 1977, when it had 37 students, but the development of a full-size golf course only began two years ago.

Mr Black - who retires next month from the post he has held for nine years - identified an expansion in the leisure industry at a time when agricultural employment was in relative decline.

A report he penned concluded: ''The development would form the start of a strategic change of direction. From a service to primary industry we would move with the economy to an increased relationship with and contribution to leisure and tourism in the region and abroad.''

Elmwood has redeployed land formerly used as the college farm for the 18-hole facility. The 120-acre site was developed at a cost of #400,000 with the help of a #100,000 grant from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Because it is a public asset, it cannot have private membership. From Saturday it will be open to the public at #15 a round before it becomes fully operational next April.

The clubhouse will be open, offering changing room facilities, locker boxes, hot and cold drinks and snacks. Mr Black said: ''As well as greenkeeping considerations, every effort has been made to integrate the course design, layout, and management with the local environment. this reflects the wider concerns of the golf industry which appreciates the need to work with nature for the benefit of both golfers and wildlife. As you go round the course this will become evident in the species of plants, animals, and trees.

''The golf course will become the best training resource in Europe for our greenkeeping and and golf course management students.''

Royal and Ancient secretary Mr Michael Bonallack said the college enjoys the highest reputation as a centre of excellence in greenkeeping.

He added: ''The new course can only further enhance what is already a first-class training experience for the hundreds of greenkeepers who pass through the college each year.''

John Philp, links superintendent at Carnoustie, says: ''All concerned at Elmwood College are to be congratulated on their new golf course initiative which will greatly enhance practical 'in college' training for golf greenkeepers.

''This exemplifies the way forward towards the next millennium which must be the development of a national training centre including a similar facility.''

Links supervisor at St Andrews, Walter Woods, said: ''Elmwood College has always been the flagship of all fineturf and greenkeeping training.

''By operating its own golf course it will be able to provide further advanced courses which will allow the college to develop as the premier training institution throughout the whole of Europe.''