Tee-time frustration leads Jake Gordon to create Noteefy

Jake Gordon didn’t take up golf until a few years ago but he soon became the “tee time guy” for his group of buddies in Los Angeles. 

“I got super frustrated trying to find tee times, whether it was because of the bots or the demand or the brokers,” Gordon says. “But almost like clockwork, 24 hours before a tee time, a bunch of availability used to come open online. There was always a wave of cancellations. So I used to try to just refresh the tee sheet and hope to find a canceled tee time.”

Or as countless others have done for decades, redial the pro shop asking if any tee times have opened up. Talk about a colossal waste of time and energy.  

Gordon, who admits he’s not very technical, seems to have come up with golf’s latest cutting-edge idea after using some real-time online reservation networks such as OpenTable and Google Flights.

“I was like, ‘Hey, we need to bring something similar to the world of golf, which is effectively real time supply-and-demand of tee times that match golfers personalized interests and needs,” Gordon says. 

Sequoyah National Golf Club in Whittier, North Carolina, was one of the original three courses to implement Noteefy, sight unseen.

Gordon turned to his friend Dathan Wong, a former Microsoft employee, in an effort to implement what would become Noteefy, an automated tee time waitlist for golfers across the United States and parts of Canada. 

“There definitely was a lot more technical sophistication that we didn’t anticipate, tons of hours of software engineering,” Gordon says. “But we built something very unique that had not ever been patented. And while Dathan is technical, I was on Accenture’s ventures team where I was doing exactly what I’m doing today, helping new companies go to market and scale up. The difference is it’s my company.”

After just 18 months, upstart Noteefy has a team of 10 and has just added Zac Keener as director of partnerships and strategy. Keener is a former KemperSports executive.

Even more importantly, in that short period of time Noteefy has become a trusted source in its golf space, starting out with just three KemperSports golf course clients and climbing now to more than 300 layouts using the service. Some of the game’s top resorts and destinations in golf — Streamsong Resort, Chambers Bay, Sand Valley, Whistling Straits — use the technology. Other big names are close to signing on, Gordon says.  

The original three Noteefy clients included California-based courses Olivas Links in Ventura and Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, and Sequoyah National Golf Club in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. 

“Those three courses signed up with no evidence that this thing would work,” Gordon says. “And what happened was right out the gate golfers loved it and embraced it. So Kemper decided that it was de-risked enough to scale it up, and we went from three facilities to 50, including many of its flagship properties.”

“I have to give KemperSports huge credit for trying to break some of golf’s previous trends and do things that are much more progressive in the business,” added Rich Cessna of Black Gold Golf Club. 

There is no fee for the golfer and the golf courses retain all revenue from the Noteefy wait list tee times that are filled. The clubs pay a yearly membership fee to Noteefy, which most are more than glad to fork over once the money starts rolling in with hands free from picking up the phone or trying to run down cancellation fee money from golfers who bug out at the last second.  

Cessna wouldn’t disclose a monetary figure on how much Noteefy has garnered his California club in the last year, but said “I can tell you it’s six figures. And the most important part of the entire program is that it is turnkey because Jake’s team does everything at the back end for you. He’s already figured out the logistics. It’s a matter of you signing up, creating a basic layout and then you’re off and running. It’s extremely simple to get signed up for.” 

Black Gold Golf Club, Yorba Linda, California.

In addition to his position with KemperSports, Keener also worked at Chambers Bay for 17 years. So he saw the benefits of Noteefy first hand. 

“During the initial six months of implementation at Chambers Bay, Noteefy successfully recouped over $500,000 in revenue that could have otherwise been lost,” Keener says. “The effectiveness of the system was so bold that it prompted me to transition from a prestigious position within the golf industry to join the company.

“My aim now is to assist facilities in optimizing their tee sheets and helping golfers find the tee times they want at incredible courses across America.”

Noteefy can also be a game-changing tool for golfers who are headed on vacation and may not want to lock in specific tee times on certain dates, instead signing up for the service and courses in the particular travel area and then get placed on the waiting list. Such a service allows for increased flexibility for golf travelers and place them on more desirable courses that were previously booked.  

“Traveling golfers can go on our website and see what courses participate, and the user journey is they go to the course and our technology sits right on the website of that particular course,” Gordon says. “So, for example, if you go to the TPC Scottsdale site you’ll see in the lower left hand side of that homepage the Noteefy tee time wait list icon.”

Gordon said his lack of golf business knowledge at the start actually helped build the platform. 

“I never played the game until three or four years ago so I guess I came at the problem as an outsider,” Gordon says. “I hadn’t been in it for 20 years, so I just said, ‘Hey, why doesn’t this exist?’ And amazingly the industry has embraced us because golf operators love the system. You know, they were willing to take risks in the beginning. And now at this point, there’s a lot more folks who are getting excited about it.”

The model could also eventually work for private clubs. 

“We’re definitely going as hard as we can in the golf industry,” he says. “But after that, I think we have aspirations to expand in hospitality, whether that’s in lodging, spas — anything you need a wait list for. As long as there’s online scheduling we actually think there’s synergies outside of the golf industry, like maybe even the medical industry. But we want to take it one step at a time and make sure that we do great work for every single user that we take on.”

Noteefy’s software service is being used by 26 courses in Florida and 25 in California.  “I’ve been a proponent of technology in the golf business for a long time, and I’ve always been pretty outspoken about the way we’ve approached technology,” Cessna says. “And so then when I saw Jake’s program I immediately thought he solved the issue, and he actually did it without having to reinvent the wheel because once we release our tee sheets online he’s allowed to search and find those, and then he just provides the service to connect to the people. He did a tremendous job in designing the system and it was successful from day one.”