When a player exerts force on the golf ball, he/she swings an average of 4-5 miles per hour. If the player uses a club with a flexible shaft, the act of swinging adds an additional measure of torque as the head of the club also propels forward to connect with the ball. The head of the club has grooves that increase the friction between the club and the ball, allowing the club to more effectively focus the area of contact.
The optimal angle to hit the ball ranges from about 12 to 20 degrees. Putting a backspin on the ball increases lift and can add significant distance to the drive. The dimples on the golf ball itself help reduce drag from the air stream by reducing turbulent air pressure around and behind the ball, shifting the wake further behind the ball, thus allowing for smoother, less resistant flight. Any combination of these variables contributes to how well the ball overcomes the forces of gravity and air resistance.
Learn the basics of how physics affects golf or read the more technical details here.
Articles by Trevor Stoddard.