The Whippoorwill Club in Armonk, N.Y., has a long, rich history dating back to the 1920s. Envisioned as a sprawling "fine, dignified, proprietary club colony" encompassing 850 acres and catering to the wealthy during the Roaring 20s, it finally broke ground in the 1929 – just in time for the Great Depression.
The club stayed afloat and eventually prospered. Like most classic courses, it has been renovated and updated a number of times and regularly makes it on several "best" lists. However, there was one challenge that left architects, managers and players frustrated. And that had nothing to do with golf.
The course was built before there was a local sewer system. "We are not on the municipal system in this part of Westchester County," says Jeffry Martocci, CCM, the club’s general manager.
Because the course lies in a watershed for New York City, with updated laws and regulations it was impossible to expand sewer or septic services. When the course was initially designed and laid out, remote restrooms were unheard of.
"Our options were limited; there wasn't a lot we could do. We had a concrete vault with a toilet that we pumped out," says Paul Gonzalez, superintendent at the course since 2006. "It was awful."
The facility – or lack of – was a constant member complaint. "At our annual meeting in 2013, it was brought up as a formal issue and I agreed to do some further research and see what we could do," says Gonzalez. That year, the Golf Industry Show was in San Diego, and Gonzalez was on a mission.
"I was looking into every option I could find," Gonzalez recalls. "Nothing would have satisfied the members. When I saw the Green Flush restrooms on the show floor, I thought they would be typical of what I had seen before. The company owners were talking to someone, so I went in and looked around the display model. And it ended up being exactly what I needed."
First of all, in spite of the fact that the restrooms are not plumbed, the toilets flush. Plus, they also offer sinks and separate urinals. However, they also use 90 percent less water than conventional restrooms and are easy to keep sparkling clean and odor free.
The prefabricated buildings have a unisex bathroom plus a mechanical room with a water tank. Water for flushing the toilet can also be captured and recycled from the sink, which also offers a hot water option. In addition, there is an option for rainwater capture and storage for toilet flushing. Interior and exterior lights are another option, with solar or rechargeable batteries available where electrical power is not available.
The toilet flushes directly into a sealed tank beneath the floor, keeping odors nonexistent. Because it only takes about a quart of water per flush, pumping is only required every few weeks or even months.
Installation was no problem, as the units come completely assembled and ready to set. "We had a very large front-end loader," Gonzalez says. "You just pick them up off the truck, hook up the battery and start using them." There are larger, multi-stall units that require a crane, but single units are easily installed without needing special labor or equipment.
Because Gonzalez simply replaced the existing vault toilets, the area was partially prepped. He laid an 8-inch base of gravel and did a bit of landscaping, including steps and a ramp to the small building.
"The biggest challenge was probably getting the members to learn how to use it," Martocci laughs. "But that was actually very easy – it's not that complicated!"
The cost was only a negligible amount more than typical vault toilets.
"When all was said and done, each unit cost us about $35,000," Martocci says. The club was so pleased by the first unit on the fifth hole that they installed a second unit on the 13th hole shortly thereafter.