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Yes, you can hold physical gold in your IRA. You must open a self-directed IRA account and work with a precious metals dealer or broker to purchase the gold. The gold must be approved by the IRA and then stored with a licensed custodian.
You can convert your 401k to gold by rolling it over into a self-directed IRA. Once the funds are in your account, you can then purchase gold. You will need to have the gold stored with a licensed custodian. A precious metals dealer will help you with the procedure to convert your 401k to gold.
Yes, with a self-directed IRA you have the flexibility to take distributions in cash or in gold.