Clivus Multrum: When Nature Calls

Regardless of what you want to call it – the loo, the John, the potty, the throne, and it gets more “colorful” from there – the restrooms on your golf course might be the most indispensable buildings on the property. Sure, depending on your gender (or what “job” needs doing), “the woods” can work in a pinch. However, truth be told, every golf course on the planet needs on-course facilities. And preferably options that won’t scare away the clientele. Enter Clivus Multrum to the rescue.

For many golf courses, the issue of providing washrooms in the most useful locations – like in the middle of either nine, for example – is often determined by logistics. In other words, when the fifth tee box is situated in “the middle of nowhere,” tapping into an existing municipal sewer system may not be a viable option. And, even if it is, installing the necessary infrastructure can be extremely costly, disruptive to the golf course, and a downright difficult proposition.

Sure, portable toilets can be a relatively simple, cost-effective solution. But, when members and guests are paying a premium to play, let’s be honest – these cramped, flimsy, odorous little outhouses just don’t cut it. A better solution is, well, better. For many golf courses, a permanent, easy-to-install, composting toilet facility is the ideal solution. And Clivus Multrum – thanks to their Trailhead M54 model – fits the bill.

Since its incorporation in the United States in 1973 (the company was founded by a Swedish engineer, Rikard Lindstrom, who, in 1939, developed the first composting toilet to prevent pollution in the Baltic Sea), Clivus Multrum has manufactured and sold hundreds of composting toilets and greywater systems throughout North America and beyond.

A sampling of their clients include: state parks, national parks, zoos, wilderness camps, sports complexes, visitor centers, nature centers, construction sites, ski resorts, and, yes, golf courses.

Besides the obvious “green” benefits (no water is used!), composting toilets require little maintenance, are easy to build (the M54 Trailhead model can be installed in two days or less, with no disruption to the golf course), look attractive, and can easily be positioned in the most remote locations on the course.

“The relatively simple and cost-effective nature of these units makes them a great fit for golf courses,” says Brian Barry, a Senior Account Executive at Clivus Multrum. “They look great, function extremely well, and are ideal in remote locations, especially where usage is relatively low. And, without a doubt, the odor-free aspect is also a major selling point. With solar-powered ventilation, odors are never an issue. These are clean, comfortable restroom facilities that even the most exclusive private clubs have been exceptionally pleased with.”

The Trailhead M54 Model, which can be built with one or two stalls, can be customized with a variety of interior fixtures. It can also be custom-built to match existing decor and architectural elements that fit the motifs of the club. For example, exterior options with cedar planking, vinyl siding, pine board, stone, and many other options, are readily available. A single-stall M54 Trailhead model (as a complete package, base model) costs approximately $23,000.00. A “decked-out” model, complete with a foam-flush toilet (one of the most popular upgrades), will run approximately $35,000.00.

When it comes to maintenance, Clivus Multrum is also available to provide the necessary service to ensure the composting process is working correctly and the tank is emptied from time to time. Regular maintenance includes adding bulking mixture (pine shavings) and monitoring moisture content to ensure good composting conditions. When systems are used at their capacity, maintenance is required once per month. Clivus Multrum can either provide the maintenance service directly or through their network of sub-contractors. However, many golf courses choose to do the relatively simple maintenance work themselves.

Interestingly, Clivus Multrum means “inclined chamber,” which is really the “secret” behind the efficiency of the composting tank. The sloped design separates urine and feces. Once separated, the polyethylene chamber uses aerobic decomposition to slowly break down the material into stable compounds that can, depending on health and environmental codes in your area, be used as fertilizer. No compost is removed from the tank before a year of use and it is often several years before any is taken from the compost tank.

Also, carbon dioxide and water vapor are the two main gases that are vented from the system. A continuously-running vent fan, which pulls air down through the toilet system and out the vent stack, ensures that the facility is completely odor free at all times. The M54 Trailhead does not require water.

In 2013 the Philadelphia Cricket Club became the first club to install the Clivus Multrum M54 Trailhead. And, not surprisingly, when other nearby clubs heard about the product – and how well it worked – others soon jumped on board. After visiting the Philly Cricket Club, the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, Old York Road Country Club, and St. Davids Golf Club also realized that this system was the perfect solution to solving their lack of on-course facilities “woes.”

Tony Gustaitis, Superintendent at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, had been trying to resolve the “restroom” issue at his course for over 10 years. With easy access to the 2nd, 12th, and 16th holes, the M54 provided a comfortable “rest stop” for their 400 members. “I’ve only received positive feedback,” says Gustaitis. “It’s clean and bright and you never smell any kind of odor. I wouldn’t hesitate to install another one in an area where we have no potable water or septic.”

Not surprisingly, the “stories” at these courses – and at many other golf courses in North America that have installed the M54 – are very similar. In other words, porta potties – or, simply, just “the woods” – are not an adequate solution to an “issue” that will never go away. Yes, indeed, where there are people, there will be a need for restrooms. Or loos. Or Johns. Or whatever else you want to call them. May as well make them nice places for, well, “a rest.”

Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work has appeared in many leading golf publications throughout North America, including Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, The Golf Channel, Golf Canada, and SCOREGolf Magazine. Contact Andrew at

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