Sweet thread. Something I actually know something about.
Played since I was eight and organized on through college. The advice I always give to colleages and friends who are looking to take up the game as adults is to do what other posters have mentioned - go the the driving range and hit the crap out of the ball.
Well, first get an introductory lesson in the basics - proper grip, stance, and so on - and THEN go to the driving range and hit the crap out of the ball. Do this for a year or so (or a couple of summers if you're in colder climates) and you'll find you're at home enough over a ball to at least have a good time when you're out with associates and friends.
But you have to have the freedom to actually put in some time at the range - which is probably the toughest part about learning the game if you've never played. No lessons or books or academies or magazines will do it overnight. It's less about technique and much more about training your body through repetition.
I agree. I go to the range religiously at least once a week. Try to play once or twice a week as well. Usually only once though. A 30 minute lesson that costs $50-100 depending on your location will ABSOLUTELY PAY FOR ITSELF. You could easily spend that in one or two rounds of golf. Get a PGA club pro or PGA teacher at your local course to give you a 30 minute lesson, you would not believe how quick they can turn your game around. Call your local course, set up a lesson at your preference and golf will actually become easier because you will have the mechanics to better yourself. Your buddy who plays alot or some guy at the range isn't a professional teacher, they may actually give you incorrect advise or just tell you what works for them. Spend the money on lessons, not teaching aides, swing trainers and the like, those things are gimmicks. Spend the money up front and your game will improve drastically. I just wish I would have taken my own advice years ago... I got a lesson and I went from scoring 85-95 from the blue tees to scoring 75-82 from the back black tees (6500yards+). Golf is actually fun now.