Augusta National Golf Club is famously exclusive, its annual Masters tournament not the easiest destination for a casual hang with friends. Otey’s Tavern in Mountain Brook, Alabama, is pretty much the opposite of all that. Still, the beloved dive bar is pumped about the upcoming golf tourney—so pumped, in fact, that when doors open on Saturday, April 8, with televisions tuned to the third round, the entire establishment will be blanketed with a thick layer of zoysia grass and accented by a back nine’s worth of azaleas and magnolias.
“This is a big golfing community with several courses nearby,” says Will Haver, who grew up in the Birmingham suburb and purchased the thirty-three-year-old watering hole in 2007. “Otey’s is a laid-back neighborhood gathering spot, and when it’s time for the Masters, we have a crowd that starts showing up after work on Thursday to sit on the patio with a cold one and watch the first round.”
Haver says he likes to “keep things lively,” and in 2019 he struck upon a wackadoodle idea of amusing those regulars. Somewhat sheepishly, he conferred with a young local landscaper, Adam Millhouse, and when Millhouse disclosed that he’d interned at Augusta National while studying horticulture at Auburn University, the metaphorical putt was all lined up.
“The crazier the ideas we had, the more fun it seemed,” Millhouse recalls.
The Masters theme became an instant tradition, even with a pandemic pause. This year, Millhouse’s now-established firm, Millhouse Howell Landscape Company, is positioning five magnolias as tall as basketball hoops around the patio area, plus thirty assorted azaleas throughout the space. “We’ll have reds and pinks and purples of different sizes—it’s an azalea hodgepodge, just like Augusta,” he says. Three pallets of zoysia sod (about 1,400 square feet) are required to cover the patio and barroom floor. The only area untouched? The restrooms. “Sod in the bathrooms could become a problem,” Haver says.
Otey’s is closed on Sundays, so all this Masters mania is for one day only. Patrons make the most of it. “A lot of our regulars dress up in their golf clothes or as characters from Caddyshack,” says Haver, who himself will be sporting a winning green jacket. “Once word gets out that the sod is down, the place gets full and stays full late into the night.”