- Associated Press - Saturday, May 9, 2015

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - The latest sports craze is hitting Fond du Lac golf courses.

Rolling Meadows Golf Course was expected to add nine more holes to its FootGolf course on Friday, course manager David Brandenburg said. The first nine holes were added in October, The Reporter Media (https://fondul.ac/1F5PLlb ) reported.

It’s one of two FootGolf courses in Fond du Lac, according to the American FootGolf League’s website. The other is at Thornbrook Golf Course, which is projected to reopen in June.

FootGolf is similar to traditional golf, except the ball is a Regulation No. 5 soccer ball, feet are used instead of clubs and the holes are 21-inch diameter cups. FootGolf holes at Rolling Meadows follow the route of the traditional golf course, but are much shorter, Brandenburg said. The players are allowed to use the entire course, except the putting greens.

“Hopefully you don’t use the pond, but that does happen with the soccer balls,” Brandenburg said.

According to the AFGL website, more 400 FootGolf courses are in the U.S. across 47 states. The website lists 14 in Wisconsin.

The Cold Water Canyon Golf Course at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells opened the first U.S. FootGolf course in July 2012. The former manager of that course, Juan Fernandez, is now the director of marketing at AFGL, which is the exclusive U.S. member of the international FootGolf regulatory body. Although the AFGL website said many people claim to have founded the sport, Fernandez said it originated in Holland in 2009.

The sport is attracting new people who don’t play the traditional game to golf courses, Fernandez said. He said courses around the country are searching for ways to bring younger golfers in and generate new sources of revenue. Most courses that add FootGolf see a return-on-investment within 60 days, he said.

“There’s about 15,000 golf courses around the country and many of them are struggling,” Fernandez said. “Golf it’s challenging … but who doesn’t know how to kick a soccer ball?”

Amy Riley, who bought Thornbrook in April 2014 with her husband, Steve, said she expects the sport’s popularity to grow in the coming years.

“We just feel that FootGolf is going to be a new and upcoming thing,” Riley said. “We think it would be beneficial … for the somewhat dying sport of golf. We’re hoping to get grandparents who are golfers to bring out their grandkids they can play rounds together.”

Brandenburg said adding FootGolf made the course more family-friendly.

“At other courses, mom and dad have played golf while the kids play FootGolf right along with them,” Brandenburg said. “That way it follows the same route.”

Although at first glance FootGolf may appear easier than its traditional predecessor, it is still challenging to play, Fernandez said. Players must be able to read the terrain, and it can be more physically demanding. He said he recommends players warm up before starting a round.

The game is already getting attention. More than 40 high school students are expected to play the Rolling Meadows course when the 18-hole FootGolf course opens Friday, Brandenburg said.

The Wisconsin FootGolf League is planning to schedule tournaments or other organized events this summer, Fernandez said. However, nothing has been scheduled yet.

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Information from: The Reporter Media, https://www.fdlreporter.com

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