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Sunday, February 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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Wisconsin golf courses expand offerings with footgolf

The concept of footgolf is so simple, it's hard to believe the sport hasn't been around for decades. Instead of hitting a tiny white ball into a small hole with a club, you kick a soccer ball into a large hole with your foot. According to Nelson Ennis, the director of the Wisconsin FootGolf League, the sport was invented in 2009 by some Dutch soccer players.

Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells opened the first American footgolf course in July, and Vitense Golfland here in Madison followed about a month ago. Footgolfers use the same fairways and attempt to avoid the same hazards as regular golfers, but the holes are off to the side of the standard greens.

"We didn't want to invade the regular golfers' space," says Juan Fernandez, who oversees footgolf at Chula Vista. "But footgolfers don't ruin the grass."

Players boot regulation size-five soccer balls toward 21-inch holes. While Ennis says "skill level isn't emphasized as much as the love of the sport," Fernandez adds that success requires plenty of skill and precision, and that some soccer experience is helpful.

"You need to be able to read which direction your kicks will roll, measure your distance and know what will happen to your ball after it lands," says Fernandez. "And playing 18 holes is pretty good exercise."

Both courses accommodated the new sport with a second revenue source in mind, and Ennis says that, with the addition of a Milwaukee venue, plans to expand the statewide footgolf league will be well under way. But until then, Vitense marketing manager JoEllen Graber says the game is becoming an increasingly popular choice for birthday parties. An 18-hole round of footgolf at Vitense goes for $8.25 ($7.25 for ages 55 and older and $6.25 for 12 and under, with $3 ball rental). The course will be open "until the snow flies," Graber says.

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