The projectiles are lighter than horseshoes and safer than lawn darts, but the idea's the same: Players try to hit a target several paces away.

The game is called cornhole, or corn toss, because players try to throw cloth bags filled with corn into a hole. It is an Ohio phenomenon that is catching on around the Midwest and beyond.

"It's easy to play: You don't have to dig a pit, drive stakes or tear up your lawn," said Mike Whitton, founder and president of the American Cornhole Association.

You don't have to work up a sweat, either. About the worst thing that could happen is someone spills a beer. (Although it is not a drinking game by definition, alcoholic beverages often are consumed. The Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. sponsors tournaments, and the game is played at some Ohio bars.) Beanbag games in various forms have been around for generations. Local players say the corn bag game originated in Cincinnati -- specifically the city's west side, where Whitton grew up -- although many lay claim to it.

Portable goals let the backyard game travel, and an industry has sprung up supplying boards, bags, clothing and other paraphernalia.

The idea is to throw a bag filled with corn into a six-inch hole in a wooden ramp 30 feet away. A bag in the hole scores three points, a bag left on the platform scores one.

As simple as that sounds, it was a scoring dispute at a family picnic that led to the formation of the American Cornhole Association, which claims to be the arbiter of the game, sanctioning tournaments, selling equipment and publishing the "official" rules of play.

Whitton said the association has more than 3,500 members, and his business has been shipping equipment to such places as Florida, Nebraska, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

Christy's Bierstube, Rathskeller and Biergarten, which caters to University of Cincinnati students, has installed a game court. Teams also compete in leagues at Tommy's on the River, a bar and restaurant on the city's waterfront.

Many of the players at Tommy's are in their twenties and work at Procter & Gamble Co. or Sara Lee Foods, are new in town and are looking to meet people, said Donna Frey, a bartender at Tommy's.

The game is so popular around Cincinnati that nearly 400 teams competed for the $2,000 first prize in the Cornhole Classic in February, and organizers are planning a Holiday Cornhole Classic for Thanksgiving weekend.

The game has also taken root at the University of Kentucky.

"You can't go up and down the street without seeing boards and bags," said Del Proctor of Lexington, president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter. "I have some family in Cincinnati, and they've been playing a couple of years. It seems to have migrated down here through the students."

The game is not very physical, he said, but "it gets people away from PlayStation and Xbox."