Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle for its lush greenery. The temperate climate Ireland enjoys allows for one of this country’s favorite sports, golf, to be played year round. There are over 300 golf courses, many of them world class, on this island. Northern Ireland offers more than 80 courses in coastal, parkland and meadow settings. The courses in Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone counties are beautiful, easy to play and relatively informal. Most green fees are less than £45 on average, depending on the day of the week you visit. The Championship Links at Royal County Down is arguably the most challenging course in Northern Ireland and isn’t for the beginner. The Annesley course is located next door to the Championship course and is much more forgiving. Northwest Ireland is home to Royal Portrush Golf Club, the host of the only Open Championship Ireland ever hosted. It’s said to be one of the most challenging courses in the world. The Portstewart course in northwest Ireland offers the best opening hole in the country, according to Irish golfers. Look for golf vacations in Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Sligo counties to visit the northwest region.Southwest Ireland is picturesque and typifies Ireland’s beautiful rolling green hills and soft blue oceans. Clare, Kerry and Limerick are the counties that usually included in southwest Ireland. Golf vacations in this area are second to none. Tralee course was designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay in 1984 and is still played well. The green fees are bit pricier in the area, Tralee charges about EU 130. The new Ballybunion Cashen course is said to be as much a “theatrical event” as it is a golf course. With high-end but reasonable green fees of about EU 85, it’s a must-play course. Cork is often called the “Little Island” and is in the very south of Ireland. One of the favorite courses in Cork is dutifully named Cork Golf Club. More than a century in its current location, this course has a unique history. Legend has it the golf club was originally evicted from its former home in Blarney (home of the famed Blarney Stone) because they kept whiskey in a cow shed. They moved the club a number of times before finding the current home at Little Island. The current site was previously a limestone quarry and the course earned the nickname the “Rock Farm” during its early years. Dublin and the Northeast counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Meath offer more than 50 courses and clubs. One course, Mount Juliet, was designed by professional golfer Jack Nicklaus. You won’t get on the course for less than EU 140 unless you’re a hotel guest, even then you’ll pay EU 100 or more. Of course, if you are willing to spend that much, you might consider paying out a little more to play the course at The Kildare Hotel and Country Club, selected to host the 2006 Ryder Cup. EU 265 will get you on this elegant, millionaire-like course opened in 2003 and designed by Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay