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Platform tennis season begins at sport's only available courts in Dane County

MADISON, Wis. - Although winter is a couple months away, tennis fans have the option of playing a similar sport at a country club in Dane County after the club opened its courts Sunday during an open house.

The sport, called platform tennis, or more commonly known as paddle tennis, can only be played in Dane County at Maple Bluff Country Club. Platform tennis is similar to tennis in its point system and general structure, but differs in that the ball can hit against the one-inch chicken fence that surrounds the court and that it's typically played in doubles. People can use the fence to their advantage as long as the ball hits the court at least once.

"It's very easy to jump out here and start playing," said Tom Chorney, Maple Bluff Country Club's director of tennis and paddle tennis.

Chorney said tennis players often have the skills to play, but not always the mindset.

The sport uses a different kind of racket and ball, which changes the strength a person should swing at the ball in comparison to what one uses in tennis, according to Chorney.

Because of the cold Wisconsin winter, platform tennis has a different court, as well. The court's floor is 3.5 feet (1.07 meters) above the ground with four heaters underneath, which melts any snow it picks up in winter. It's also made with aluminum, which helps melt the snow. Chorney described its abrasive surface to be like road salt, so it requires different kind of shoes.

The sport now offers tennis fans a game to play year round.

"When it's cold, we play paddle, when it's warm, we play tennis," Chorney said.

He said people who enjoy squash and racquetball would most likely enjoy platform tennis as well. Chroney believes the sport will gain popularity as time goes on.

"The whole idea of this game is that it's very social, it's competitive in a good way, and for sure you get a workout," Chorney said. "I mean when you get done, it doesn't matter if it's 10 degrees outside, it's a great way to get a workout. Lots of steps."

The sport will be offered at the country club until spring. People who are interested in participating do not need to be a member of the country club to play in the courts. 

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