(Washington D.C. - WAMU) The U.S. Open golf tournament is set to begin next week at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. - just a few miles outside of the nation's capital. Thousands of fans are expected to attend, but as WAMU's Matt Bush reports, the tournament's organizers are providing them with a strong disincentive to use public transit.
For other large events in the D.C. region, Metrorail is usually the preferred option for attendees because of its convenience. But next week, that may not be the case. In addition, taking Metro will actually cost you more.
Metro fares will be the same, but if you take the train you also have to pay for a shuttle bus to the golf course. Reservations must be made for the buses, which will run from the Grosvernor-Strathmore station on the Red Line. They're $8 for a day or $35 for the whole week.
"Metro is not as convenient for this event as it is for other events, such as those down on the National Mall, where Metro stations are right there," says Emil Wolanin, chief traffic engineer for Montgomery County.
Wolanin says using the public parking lots in Gaithersburg is the best way to go, adding that if fans can, they should carpool. Parking and shuttle buses are free to and from those lots. All fans will have to undergo security screening, and Wolanin says it will be easier to do that at the public parking lots.
But if driving or Metro is out of the question, Wolanin says there are other options.
"There are some RideOn and Metrobus routes that go by the area. If you're inclined to come by bike, you can't take your bike into Congressional Country Club, but there will be some bike racks where you can lock up your at the taxi and limo drop off," Wolanin says.
As many as 50,000 are expected to attend each day of the four-day tournament.
Wolanin saw firsthand what the tournament can do to a congested area when he attended the tournament two years ago at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, in New York.
Wolanin and other county officials went to that Open to get a head start on preparations for 2011. Rainy weather marred the tournament, and taught Wolanin and others the importance of parking.
"There was a lot of mud, a lot of wet fields that parking was on," he says. "The USGA looks for paved parking. If you lose the field, you lose the ability to park people."
That's why the main public parking lot for next week's U.S. Open, Crown Farm in Gaithersburg, was laid with crushed stone to prevent the problems seen on Long Island. The lot that was used the last time the U.S. Open was at Congressional is now the Universities at Shady Grove.
Wolanin says that won't be the only change from 1997. There will be more people in attendance here this time around, but not necessarily fans.
"What they call the 'outside-the-ropes' footprint," he explains. "The media, the concessions, the corporate sponsors -- all that has about doubled since 1997." Hundreds of employees and volunteers are being shipped up to Congressional for the event. Predicting the event's attendance is difficult, but officials in California estimated that 275,000 people attended last year's tournament in Pebble Beach, Ca.
But the man most responsible for golf's increased popularity since then -- Tiger Woods -- won't be there. He decided this week not to play this year because of injuries to his left leg.