There are a dozen reasons why Ireland is home to so many scenic golf courses.
Miles of coastline, home to bucolic beaches and dazzling dunes, surround the Emerald Isle. The rolling countryside looks like a patchwork quilt colored various shades of green, often with mountains as a backdrop.
I've come up with a list of a dozen of the most beautiful courses I've played in Ireland over the past decade. Be sure to bring a camera to play this "Delicious Dozen." And if you're lucky, a sunny day will reveal their full glory.
Not all of them are links, either. Two stunning parkland courses -- Druids Glen Golf Club in County Wicklow and Adare Manor in County Limerick -- don't need the ocean to strut their stuff. The European Club, Pat Ruddy's 20-hole creation 30 minutes south of Dublin, is another Wicklow wonderland.
Northern Ireland serves up a fabulous foursome: Royal County Down, Ardglass Golf Club, the Dunlance Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club and the Strand Course at Portstewart Golf Club.
Two gems in County Sligo in the northwest of Ireland -- Enniscrone Golf Club and County Sligo Golf Club -- made the cut. Wild dunes characterize Enniscrone, while the panoramic views of five counties and Benbulben Mountain make County Sligo special.
The beaches along Doonbeg Golf Club and the magical Tralee Golf Club showcase the best of southwest Ireland, even overshadowing their more prestigious neighbors, Ballybunion and Lahinch.
No course, however, compares to the sheer wow factor of Old Head Golf Links, near Kinsale in the southwest. Old Head's cliffs and lighthouse remain a spectacle every golfer should see at least once.