Golf spending in region rises as U.S. Open begins

Bryn Briscuso and her daughter Nicole, 10, run a parking area for a friend nearly half a mile from the entrance to the U.S. Open in Potomac, Md., on Wednesday.-Andrew Harnik/Examiner
The U.S. Open Championship is expected to bring in $140 million this weekend for the Washington region -- an area where golf-related spending is increasing and bucking a national trend.

Spending in Maryland, home of host golf course Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, increased by 8 percent in 2010 compared with the prior year, a new American Express Business Insights report shows.

Spending, which includes retail and at golf courses, rose in Virginia by 5 percent and in Delaware by 12 percent. Data was not available for the District of Columbia.

Ed Jay, senior vice president of American Express Business Insights, attributed the region's increase to its strong retail and sports markets.

Keep these at home
The list of banned items at the U.S. Open:
» No cell phones
» No PDAs and/or other portable email device
» No noise-producing electric device
» No cameras or camcorders
» No bags larger than 8 inches wide by 8 inches tall
» No signs or banners
» No food or beverages
» No containers or coolers
» No pets
» No televisions or radios
» No bicycles
» No ladders or step stools
» No lawn or folding chairs
» No metal spiked golf shoes

"The diversity of industries has been very strong," he said. "Consumers feel more confident the market is coming back."

Meanwhile, spending nationwide remained flat in 2010.

The report was released at Congressional, which is expected to be a big benefactor of the local largesse -- as is Montgomery County.

The county's 10,000 hotel rooms have been booked, county officials expect $400,000 and $500,000 to be spent on alcohol sales alone, and the 300,000 people expected to come to the county for the tournament will buy merchandise, dine out and shop.

The free-flowing money has generated all sorts of entrepreneurs looking to capitalize -- even among the well-to-do. Along Bradley Boulevard and River Road, homeowners are bringing in at least $1,000 each day, charging anywhere from $20 to $35 for parking on pre-tournament days and $50 for the four-day tournament starting Thursday.

If you go
There is no parking at Congressional Country Club. Officials recommend taking shuttle buses:
• Free shuttles will be at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg and at the Crown Farm just south of the fairgrounds.
• Shuttles will run from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station on the Red Line. But it will cost $8 a day and riders have to sign up in advance.
• Two buses go near Congressional from Metro stations. The T2 (operated by Metro on weekdays and Ride-On on weekends) goes from the Rockville and Friendship Heights stations to River Road and Bradley Boulevard. The 36 Ride-On goes to Congressional from Bethesda Metro on weekdays, not weekends.

Homeowners say they must declare their earnings with the federal government. But this type of spending isn't accounted for in spending reports or predictions, meaning the money generated by the U.S. Open is likely more than tax revenues will indicate.

Nearby resident Chris Slowinski said homeowners set the prices by asking around to determine what the market will bear. Pricing generally increases the closer the lot is to the front gate.

But not just any Schmoe can put up a sign to score some extra cash for the week -- for some, nearly enough to pay a month's mortgage in pricey Potomac. Lot attendants need a permit from the county, which costs about $400.

Slowinski said his father invested roughly $1,000 between the permit, signage and printing out brochures for parkers.

"All the money we make goes to tuition for me and my siblings," he said. "So we're using it for something a little more noble."