The "nonce" in a bitcoin block is a 32-bit (4-byte) field whose value is adjusted by miners so that the hash of the block will be less than or equal to the current target of the network. The rest of the fields may not be changed, as they have a defined meaning.
Any change to the block data (such as the nonce) will make the block hash completely different. Since it is believed infeasible to predict which combination of bits will result in the right hash, many different nonce values are tried, and the hash is recomputed for each value until a hash less than or equal to the current target of the network is found. The target required is also represented as the difficulty, where a higher difficulty represents a lower target. As this iterative calculation requires time and resources, the presentation of the block with the correct nonce value constitutes proof of work.
A golden nonce in Bitcoin mining is a nonce which results in a hash value lower than the target. In many practical mining applications, this is simplified to any nonce which results in a block hash which has 32 leading zeroes, with a secondary test checking if the actual value is lower than the target difficulty.